Next month New Brunswick’s provincial government will be making an important decision: whether to put into the Motor Vehicle Act an ignition interlock amendment that makes the devices mandatory for all drunk drivers. Ignition interlocks prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking,
At present, a judge may order an ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, on an offender’s vehicle, but it is not mandatory. The province is one of a few that have no thoroughgoing ignition interlock program. As a result of this deficiency in their driving legislation, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada gave New Brunswick an “F” rating on its 2015 Provincial Impaired Driving Report. The organization’s awareness and education director, Kali O’Dell, recently announced her support for the amendments.
Steven Horsman, the minister of public safety, is in favor of the ignition interlock program. He proposed this and other amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act.
The amendments also include the possibility of ALR – Administrative Licence Suspension – for suspected drunk drivers. An officer who sees signs of impaired or distracted driving may suspend a driver’s licence immediately. ALR is another measure which is in force in other provinces.
Every crackdown on drunk driving draws comments from those who feel that measures like ignition interlocks and ALR are too harsh for first offenders. In fact, if years of working in this field have taught us anything, it’s that drunk driving is a very sticky problem. Penalties on their own don’t work well. Ignition interlocks were devised because society needs protections against impaired drivers that don’t depend on the good intentions of the offenders themselves.
If the government does introduce the ignition interlock amendment and the other measures, New Brunswick will move from the rearguard fully into the vanguard of those fighting for safer roads. Too many lives have been lost for the province not to avail themselves of this proven preventive.
Time to step up, New Brunswick.