There’s no question that the bar for impaired driving sentences has been set fairly high over the past few years. There’s been several nine and ten year sentences handed down to drunk drivers in crashes in Ontario and several in Saskatchewan, and even Mothers Against Drunk Driving has agreed that these are fair sentences for the offenders who have caused these tragic crashes.
But now experts in the field of impaired driving are wondering if these harsh jail sentences are actually working as a deterrent to stop drunk drivers. All it takes is one look at Canada’s impaired driving stats and it’s easy to see that there are still an incredibly high number of impaired drivers on the roads.
Why don’t jail sentences work to deter impaired drivers? There are few reasons that might factor into why:
People never think these crashes will happen to them
It’s doubtful that when Marco Muzzo got behind the wheel of his car while drunk and drove toward home from the airport the day of his crash that he thought anything would happen.
People may have a “it will never happen to me” attitude when it comes to drunk driving, so they may not equate a ten year jail term for someone like Muzzo to something that could apply to their own lives.
Impaired driving is so common place that it’s seen as no big deal
A recent survey of Canadians showed that there was a spike in people admitting they’ve driven drunk. Twenty two percent of people admitted to impaired driving, and that number was up by five percent over last year.
That number is in line with other polls conducted in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where one in five people in Saskatchewan didn’t think that drunk driving was a big deal if you only drive short distances and one in five Albertans would consider driving drunk if it was on a quiet road.
If jail time was a serious deterrent, you might not be seeing those kinds of numbers in polls.
While jail time might not be a sufficient deterrent for drunk drivers, there is a penalty that does make drivers think twice about drunk driving and stop them in their tracks: ignition interlocks. With an interlock on their vehicle, a driver can’t make the choice to drink and drive. If he or she does, the car won’t start.
Having to install that simple device in a vehicle could work as more of a deterrent than jail time, fines, and driver’s license suspensions combined. Maybe this is the year that all of Canada gets on board and requires ignition interlocks for every offender.