New Brunswick is about to take a big step on behalf of its citizens’ road safety. The Department of Public Safety has announced that early next year, the province will prescribe mandatory ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenses.
An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.
This is a welcome improvement for the province, whose policies on drunk driving lag behind those of other provinces. Last year Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada put together a report on impaired driving in the provinces, comparing their performance in such areas as BAC limits, immediate suspensions, vehicle confiscation, and ignition interlock laws. In that report, New Brunswick was at the bottom of the class: a grade of “F,” with a score of 44 percent. One of the areas that brought about that grade was New Brunswick’s ignition interlock policy.
Some provinces mandate interlocks for all DUI offenses, including first offenses – this is MADD’s recommendation, and a growing trend in North America. Others mandate them for repeat offenders. In New Brunswick, however, the devices are not mandatory for any offense.
Mandatory ignition interlocks are a wise choice for DUI because they are the only measure which actually prevents an offender from reoffending – apart from imprisonment, which has great financial and social costs, and which is usually considered a last resort. Licence suspensions, a common punishment for drunk driving, do not work. Some half to three-quarters of suspended drivers get behind the wheel at some point, and too many of them are impaired when they do so. An ignition interlock is the only measure that actually prevents a driver from starting a vehicle when drunk, so the public is protected.
Violations are recorded, so the authorities can keep track of how an offender is holding to his or her promise not to drive impaired.
We look forward to a new, more fully protected New Brunswick next year. Expect the province’s grade to go up considerably as drunk driving numbers