Alberta has introduced its proposed Transportation Safety Amendment Act for 2016. Most of the headlines stress the emphasis on Uber and other rideshare companies. Such companies such as Uber will have to ensure that their drivers have proper insurance and licences, and subject them to sufficient background checks, or else face very stiff fines.
But the proposal which will have the greatest effect on road safety in Alberta is the removal of the first-time offender exemption to the ignition interlock program. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.
At present, first DUI offenders can apply to be exempt from the ignition interlock requirement if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was less than .16, provided they satisfy other requirements. The proposed law will require all offenders to use the devices, regardless of whether or not it is a first offense, if the BAC was .08 or above.
The breathalyzer-like device is attached to the starter of a car or truck. A user breathes into the device before starting the ignition. If a set amount of alcohol is present on the driver’s breath – usually around .02 – the vehicle will not start.
Research has shown that requiring all DUI offenders – including first offenders – to use interlocks dramatically reduces not only DUI recidivism but also alcohol-related collisions, injuries and deaths. According to Brian Wilson, Alberta Minister of Transportation, making this change to its ignition interlock program is part of the effort to make Alberta’s roads the safest in Canada.
Rideshare companies are in the news, and that’s understandable, but we hope that Alberta’s efforts to improve its ignition interlock laws are not overshadowed and forgotten. This lifesaving move deserves attention – and the measure deserves passage by the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. Fingers crossed.