A bill recently introduced in the Manitoba Legislature will make life tougher for impaired drivers.
Up to now, Manitobans who are convicted of drunk driving can install an ignition interlock to regain driving privileges, but they can also choose to “wait out” the suspension period. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.
Waiting out the suspension sounds reasonable – after all, if you choose not to driver rather than have an interlock installed, what’s the problem?
The problem is that most people who are suspended tend to drive anyway. Every day police in Canada arrest drivers with suspended licenses.
And worse, those who tend to drink and drive will do so while suspended.
Penalties don’t seem to matter as much as one would think, despite their severity. Manitoba, for example, impounds the vehicles of those driving suspended for 30 days, among other penalties.
The Safer Roads Act (Manitoba Bill 34) will require all convicted impaired drivers to participate in Manitoba’s ignition interlock program. This would have two important effects:
- It would actively prevent these drivers from getting behind the wheel after drinking.
- By enforcing sobriety while driving, it would help some offenders confront their problem and aid in their counseling and treatment.
Another measure in the bill would expand the suspension period for drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of between .05 and .08 – the infamous “buzzed drivers.” And in what Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Winnepeg President Melody Bodnarchuk calls the “real jewel in this crown,” the law stipulates a seven-day suspension for a first offense if there is a minor under 16 in the vehicle with the impaired driver.
“I am elated to see tougher legislation in Manitoba to increase the deterrents and real time consequences for impaired driving,” says Bodnarchuk. “We all shake our heads and say drunk or drugged driving is wrong but Minister Mackintosh and the Manitoba government have done something about it.”
Statistics show that mandatory ignition interlock laws save lives. If the Safer Roads Act passes, the province will see a reduction in alcohol-related deaths. Fingers crossed.