It’s one of the most common crimes in Canada: driving without a licence. A man by the name of Webster was doing it not too long ago. As a result, when he happened upon a police checkpoint, he did what he thought he had to do: he tried to evade the police by turning into a private residence.
Unfortunately, the policeman knew who really lived at that house, and it wasn’t Mr. Webster.
Webster was arrested and found to have lost his licence for DUI a month ago.
What matters here are not the punishments – a $1,500 fine and $450 surcharge, along with a restarting of the full year’s driving prohibition – but the judge’s words: he said that Webster could have been on the road legally had he just participated in Nova Scotia’s ignition interlock program. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.
Nova Scotia’s ignition interlock program is optional for first offenders, provided they’re not judged to be a high risk. After completing 90 days with the interlock device the driver can apply to be released from the program.
The reason the judge preferred the ignition interlock program was because it’s a workable alternative to suspension. More than half of suspended drivers get back on the road illegally before their term is up. Ones with drinking problems don’t refrain from alcohol just because they’re driving illegally. An ignition interlock is the only means of ensuring that an offender doesn’t drink and drive.
The ignition interlock is a win for the offender as well: instead of sitting at home or driving illegally, he or she gets to drive a vehicle, as long as no alcohol is detected by the interlock. Even with this perfectly sensible alternative, many drivers refuse the program, either believing that they can handle their drinking or not caring either way.
The answer is mandatory ignition interlocks for all DUI offenders. Québec has such a program, and it has proved successful right from the beginning.
We hope Mr. Webster listens to the judge. And we hope the Nova Scotia Legislature does too. It’s time for them to consider an all-offender ignition interlock law to make the province’s roads safer for everyone.