Ontario plans to toughen penalties for impaired drivers

Ontario plans to toughen penalties for impaired drivers



Ontario plans to bring in legislation that would impose tough new penalties on impaired drivers, the provincial government says.In a news release on Wednesday, the Ontario government said one of the penalties in the proposed legislation would be a lifetime licence suspension on motorists convicted of impaired driving causing death.Ontario Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria said in the release that the government wants to curb impaired driving by strengthening the sanctions against those who drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. One in three road deaths involves impaired driving in Ontario, according to the province.”Everyone deserves to return home to their loved ones safely at the end of the day,” Sarkaria said in the release.”Too many families in Ontario have had their lives torn apart by the careless and shameful actions of impaired drivers. That’s why our government is introducing tough new measures, including lifetime licence suspensions, that will protect families and keep our communities safe.”Under the legislation, the government would require anyone convicted of impaired driving to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle and to be forced to take remedial education and treatment for first and second-time alcohol and drug-related offences, respectively.Ontario Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria says: ‘Too many families in Ontario have had their lives torn apart by the careless and shameful actions of impaired drivers.’ (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)An ignition interlock device is an alcohol breath screening device in a vehicle that prevents its engine from starting if alcohol is detected in the driver’s system.The proposed legislation would also increase immediate roadside licence suspensions for first and second-time alcohol and drug-related offences, from three and seven days to seven and 14 days, respectively. It would also clarify the authority of police to stop vehicles and administer sobriety tests for drivers on or off the highway.The Ontario Provincial Police has said it laid more than 10,000 impaired driving charges last year. In a post on X, formerly Twitter, on Dec. 27, 2023, OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said 397 people died in road crashes up until that point last year, and 49 of them died as a result of an alcohol or drug related crash.Schmidt said the number of impaired driving charges being laid is increasing year over year.Too many still driving impaired, MADD Canada saysSteve Sullivan, CEO of MADD Canada, said in the release he is pleased by the proposed new measures.”Mothers Against Drunk Driving commends the Ontario government for taking steps to make roads safer and hold impaired drivers accountable,” Sullivan said.”Despite progress, too many people are still making the choice to drive impaired, and we need to ensure sanctions hold drivers accountable while focusing on reducing recidivism.”Ontario Provincial Police are pictured at the scene of a fatal crash in Caledon on Dec. 19, 2023. (Susan Goodspeed/CBC)The government said the percentage of drivers killed while under the influence of cannabis more than doubled between 2012 and 2020, and it plans to crack down on cannabis-impaired driving as well.Those plans include more tools and training for police officers to enable them to detect drug-impaired driving. And the province plans to launch a campaign across the province to point out the dangers of drug-impaired driving, with a focus on cannabis and young drivers.Legislation will save lives: paramedic association Michael Sanderson, president of the Ontario Association of Paramedic Chiefs and Chief of Hamilton Paramedic Service, said in the release that he believes the proposed legislation will save lives.”Paramedics know all too well the catastrophic injuries and tragic deaths on Ontario’s roads caused by alcohol and drug-impaired driving.”The announcement comes one day after Ontario announced it intends to suspend driving licences of convicted auto thieves. If passed, anyone convicted of motor vehicle theft under the Criminal Code could face a 10-year licence suspension for a first offence, a 15-year licence suspension for a second offence and a lifetime licence suspension for a third offence.On Tuesday, Ontario Provincial Police said 411 people were killed as a result of collisions on the province’s highways last year, making 2023 the deadliest in more than 15 years.Earlier this month, the OPP announced all drivers in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area pulled over by highway safety officers will be asked to provide a breath sample — no matter what they’re stopped for. 



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