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Roadside suspensions credited for cut in drunk driving deaths

Police-imposed roadside penalties have largely replaced impaired driving charges with vehicle seizures and steep administrative penalties. - Black Press files
Police-imposed roadside penalties have largely replaced impaired driving charges with vehicle seizures and steep administrative penalties.
— image credit: Black Press files

VICTORIA – Roadside suspensions and vehicle seizures for drivers blowing as low as 0.05 per cent blood alcohol have helped cut B.C. drinking and driving deaths by half, Attorney General Suzanne Anton said Monday.

Government statistics show average fatalities from drinking and driving have fallen to 54 a year from a previous five-year average of 112, since the law took effect in September 2010. Anton said the program is so successful that other provinces are moving in the same direction.

Anton wouldn't comment on court challenges to the program, which imposes penalties on people who test in the "warn" range below 0.08, where they are subject to impaired driving charges.

"If there have to be changes made to it, we will be making those, but the program is good, it saves lives and that's what's important," Anton said.

The "immediate roadside prohibition" program replaced most impaired driving charges with administrative penalties, including a three-day driving ban and a $200 administrative fee for those who blow between 0.05 and 0.08, if the police officer has reason to believe the driver is impaired.

For those who blow in the "impaired" range of 0.08 or higher, police have the option of imposing a 90-day driving ban, a $500 penalty and impounding the vehicle for 30 days instead of laying a charge. Towing and impounding a vehicle can result in a $700 bill, and a $1,400 mandatory "responsible driver program" may also be required before the driver's licence is returned.

The government terms the measure "Alexa's Law," after four-year-old Alexa Middelaer, who was feeding horses at the roadside in Delta when she was struck by an impaired driver and killed in 2008.

"After decades of stagnant progress on reducing the number of preventable deaths caused by drinking and driving, as a community we've made significant and sustained changes," said Laurel Middelaer, Alexa's mother, who has been an advocate on the issue since the tragedy.

 

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