Saskatchewan Gets Tougher on Drinking and Driving

Some could find topic sensitive – it involves SGI’s 2014 changes to The Traffic Safety Act, The Driver’s License and Suspension Regulations and The Vehicle Impoundment Regulations. These changes create tougher drinking and driving sanctions for adults over the age of 19. Saskatchewan residents should understand the reason for these changes, the changes themselves and how they affect drivers.  Businesses need to also realize that company vehicles are at risk of impoundment.

I. Background

SGI says that 135 people were killed and 6,934 were injured in vehicle accidents on Saskatchewan’s roads and highways in 2013.  Our lawmakers decided those numbers, and numbers of similar accidents in previous years, were not acceptable.  The Special Committee on Traffic Safety recommended several more stringent laws. Many of these were adopted and became effective June 27, 2014.

II. Lower Level Charges – .04 – .08

A good portion of the new laws target experienced drivers – those over the age of 19 and not in the Graduated Driver Licensing program – who are found to have Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) between .04 and .08.

Drivers stopped with this level of intoxication will receive an immediate 3-day roadside license suspension. They also must take the Driving Without Impairment Program within 120 days. If you are caught for a second time in a 5-year period, your license will be immediately suspended for 21 days, your vehicle will be impounded for 7 days and you will have to take the program again.  Anyone stopped for a third or subsequent offence in a 5- year period will have their license automatically suspended for 90 days, have their vehicle impounded for 14 days and will have to attend the intake potion of an addictions screening and programming course before the license is returned. Drivers stopped for a third time in a five year period will also incur the cost, inconvenience and embarrassment of having an interlock device installed on their vehicle. This device prevents starting the vehicle if it detects any alcohol on the driver’s breath.

In addition to the significant disruption to one’s life a driving suspension entails, there will be towing and impoundment costs for the vehicle.

A driver can appeal the results leading to roadside suspensions for a BAC between .04 and .08, the impoundment of one’s vehicle and the installation of the interlock device, but no ground of appeal is available simply for the hardship of not having a car for work or family requirements.  You might consider requesting a second test if your first BAC reading is at the low end between .04 and .08. Officers are required to have a second test available for you.

III. Refusal, Over .08 and Over .16

These more serious situations have already attracted federal Criminal charges in the past but our new provincial laws go further through greater fines and suspensions for these longstanding offences.

If you receive a BAC reading between .08 and .16 you will lose your license for an indefinite period of time. The suspension only ends at the completion of an eventual sentence for your offence or the adjudication of your case. That means you could be without a license until you are convicted of the charge in court or the Crown prosecutor decides to stay, dismiss or drop the charge.

Following a first offence of over .08 there is a financial penalty of $1,250.00, vehicle impoundment for 30 days, Safe Driver Recognition demerits and mandatory attendance at the Program. Again, there are significant costs associated with the Program as well as the towing and impoundment of your vehicle.

If you provide a breath sample over .16, you will incur a 60 day vehicle impoundment and face a fine of $2,250.00.  Interestingly, if you refuse to provide a breath sample you will face a fine of $2,250.00 with a 60 day suspension – the same consequence that would have resulted for providing a breath sample over .16. Although there are greater penalties, both provincially and federally, for subsequent .08, .16 and refusal offences, this level of criminality exceeds the scope of this article.  Contact a lawyer if any of these apply to you.

This article only hints at a few of the changes introduced through the new legislation.  For example, there are plenty of nuances for young drivers under the age of 19. Businesses that rely on company vehicles must also be aware of the risks of impoundment due to employee misbehaviours. I encourage anyone curious about these new laws to contact a lawyer for more thorough advice on alternatives that may be available to you, your family or your business partners.

This article originally appeared in Saskatchewan Business magazine and is reprinted with their kind permission