Saskatchewan’s impaired driving record has always been dismal, but over the past year the province has entered a volatile period where drunk driving arrests and crashes have been skyrocketing.
To counter this, the Saskatchewan government just stepped in to enact emergency changes to their impaired driving laws. They’ve made significant changes, and one of those changes was to increase the length of time an offender uses an ignition interlock. Instead of receiving a one year ignition interlock program for a first offense, anyone with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over .16 will be required to install and maintain the device for two years. If it’s their second repeat offense over .16, they’ll need to use one for five years.
Will a new ignition interlock program curb Saskatchewan’s drunk driving arrests? Time will tell, but these harsh new measures are sure to get the attention of drunk drivers in the province, and they can serve as an example for other provinces.
Take Manitoba for example: if Saskatchewan is the leader in drunk driving arrests, Manitoba isn’t far behind. Over the past month six people have died in crashes over one weekend, with two of those crashes due to impaired driving. The Thanksgiving weekend saw twelve impaired driving charges laid, and eight five people have died in 2016 because of impaired driving.
Just like Saskatchewan Manitoba has a mandatory ignition interlock program, and if you’re a first or second time offender in the province you’ll need to install an ignition interlock for a year. But Manitoba could learn from Saskatchewan’s example and improve their own program to increase the length of time someone uses the device. Longer ignition interlock duration could give the offender a real chance to change their behavior, and after using the device they’ll have learned that drinking and driving is a mistake they don’t want to make again.
Where Manitoba’s ignition interlock program is strong is when you receive four or more impaired driving convictions. Once you do that you’ll need to drive with an ignition interlock for a lifetime, and that’s the best way to stop chronic offenders.
Both Saskatchewan and Manitoba could work to improve their ignition interlock compliance. After all, these devices only work if the person required to use one actually installs and drives with the interlock.
Impaired driving claims hundreds of lives each year, and those deaths are 100% preventable. Thankfully Saskatchewan lawmakers are starting to take that loss of life seriously, and hopefully Manitoba lawmakers will soon follow suit.