Deaths on B.C. roads linked to impaired driving are down 50 per cent in the wake of the new administrative roadside penalties that took effect last fall.

Tougher roadside impaired rules here to stay

Bar and restaurant owners give up on push for changes

The provincial government won’t soften its 10-month-old roadside administrative penalties for impaired driving, citing a 50-per-cent drop in drunk driving deaths since the rules took effect.

Nor will it embark on a public information campaign previously pledged to help revelers decide how much they can drink before they might exceed the lower blood-alcohol limit of 0.05 if caught behind the wheel.

“Half the number of people have died on the roads as a result of drunk driving based on the statistics we see,” Premier Christy Clark told reporters Monday.

Preliminary numbers show 30 deaths in alcohol-related crashes in the first seven months of the new regulations, down from an average of 61 fatalities in the same October-to-April period of the previous five years.

Police credit the new regulations – with the threat of stiff fines and car impoundments – for the improved driving safety record.

Police can now impose an immediate penalty on any driver who blows in the “warn” range between 0.05 and 0.08.

Instead of issuing a 24-hour suspension or a formal impaired charge, police can impose a 90-day driving ban, a $500 fine and impound the vehicle for 30 days, with the owner on the hook for the towing and storage charges.

Former public safety minister Rich Coleman had promised a review of the new rules late last year after the bar and restaurant industry complained of lost business because patrons were drinking less.

He had indicated that might lead to an appeal period where drivers caught by police could lodge challenges before the penalties are applied.

But no such legislation was tabled this spring.

B.C. Restaurant and Foodservice Association president Ian Tostenson said his members now accept that the rules are here to stay.

“When the theme of Families First came through from the premier, it was pretty obvious that no one in their right mind was going to say families are important – and by the way, we’re going to loosen up on the impaired driving penalties,” he said.

Business was down much more steeply in the immediate months after the change, he said.

Now, he said, the worst-hit businesses are down perhaps 10 to 12 per cent from before the change, possibly as patrons better understand the rules and make alternate arrangements for transportation.

He said it’s also difficult to say how much of the losses stem not from the drunk driving penalties but from consumers’ reluctance to spend due to the sluggish economy or the imposition of the Harmonized Sales Tax.

“I think we just have to adapt and find ways to make it work,” Tostenson said. “We wish it hadn’t happened. But it’s here and let’s make the best of it.”

Attorney General Barry Penner is also counting on the policy change to help decongest B.C.’s crowded courts.

The shift to police-imposed roadside penalties – dubbed by some defence lawyers as an effective decriminalization of impaired driving – means most of those incidents now no longer go into the court system.

Penner previously called it a side benefit of the change that should help cut the backlog in the criminal courts.

While those punished under the administrative system and not the courts pay a high price up front, they avoid possible court sanctions, including a criminal record, a possible one-year Canada-wide driving ban as well as potential jail time.

Just Posted

Truck fire knocked down on Highway 97

The blaze has been knocked down by fire crews

More showings of controversial movie Unplanned scheduled in West Kelowna

One of the additional shows sold out in three minutes at the Landmark Xtreme

Private viewing for Elijah-lain Beauregard to be held in Penticton

Afterwards, there will be a celebration of life next to the Okanagan Lake,

Single vehicle roll over in West Kelowna sends one to hospital

One person sent to hospital with non life-threatening injuries

Rockets’ Thomson signs entry-level contract with Ottawa Senators

The defenceman was taken 19th overall by Ottawa in June’s NHL Entry Draft

UPDATE: special council meeting set for Wednesday, Basran in talks with province

Opponents of McCurdy house says she won’t ‘relinquish possession’ of more than 14,000 names

B.C.-wide police efforts identify Vancouver Island robbery suspect

Warrant issued for arrest of North Vancouver man for TD Bank robbery

VIDEO: Wolf spotted swimming ashore on northern Vancouver Island

Island wolf population estimated at under 150 in 2008, says VI-Wilds

Diversity a Canadian strength, Trudeau says of Trump tweets at congresswomen

Trudeau avoided using Trump’s name when he was asked about the president’s Twitter comments

B.C. couple bring son home from Nigeria after long adoption delay

Kim and Clark Moran of Abbotsford spent almost a year waiting to finalize adoption of Ayo, 3

Garneau ‘disappointed’ in airlines’ move against new passenger bill of rights

New rules codified compensation for lost luggage, overbooked flights

Mercury tops out on top of the world: Alert in Nunavut warmer than Victoria

It’s the latest anomaly in what’s been a long, hot summer across the Arctic

PHOTOS: Okanagan MetalFest event rocks

Big crowds gather for popular two-day annual heavy metal music festival in tiny Armstrong

Canadian is detained in China on drug allegations: Chinese government

Detention of a Canadian in China comes as part a diplomatic dispute triggered by arrest of Huawei exec Meng Wanzhou

Most Read