Permanent licence revocation is considered an extreme punishment for impaired driving, usually reserved for persistent repeat offenders or for those causing a collision while impaired that results in death. The punishment is never given lightly, so the idea of shortening that life term naturally generates controversy.
Recently the CBC’s Information Morning looked in on Scott Burchill, a convicted Nova Scotia drunk driver who has had his licence reinstated after a lifetime revocation, thanks to a piece of legislation called a faint hope clause. Nova Scotia instituted the clause in April of 2015 to allow certain offenders with lifetime driving bans to resume driving if they met a number of stringent conditions:
- They must not have driven at all during the previous 10 years.
- They must have no outstanding driving prohibitions, fines or fees.
- They must participate in the province’s Alcohol Ignition Interlock Program (AIIP) for five years. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.
- After leaving the program, they must still adhere to a zero BAC (blood alcohol concentration) condition on their licence for five more years.
It’s no picnic, and that’s for a reason. Legislators in Nova Scotia are aware that impaired driving at a level this serious is often linked to other alcohol problems, and those must be addressed. The idea of the faint hope clause is to allow the worst of DUI offenders to get their lives back together and resume driving provided they can prove that they can abide by society’s rules.
The ignition interlock is a key element of the program. Not only does it prevent the offender from driving drunk if he or she slips and starts drinking, it also monitors the offender’s BAC when they attempt to drive so that the authorities have a record of any missteps. Interlocks are vital technology for both public safety and enforcement of the conditions of the faint hope clause.
For Scott Burchill, the faint hope clause has been a passport to a new, rehabilitated life. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada and others are keeping watch to see how the program works out. We think that Nova Scotia is on the right track: closely vetted applicants, well monitored by ignition interlocks, can come back and participate in society on and off the roads, given the chance.