Feds ponder lowering legal alcohol limit for drivers
Published Tuesday, August 8, 2017 11:37AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, August 8, 2017 6:24PM EDT
Canada’s legal blood-alcohol limit could be reduced, according to a letter sent by Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to her Quebec counterpart.
In the letter to Stephanie Vallée dated May 23, Wilson-Raybould suggested amending the Criminal Code to lower the legal limit for motorists from 0.08 to 0.05, saying the change would “better counter the danger posed by drivers who have consumed alcohol.”
Wilson-Raybould added that the current legal limit was established on evidence showing “the risk of being involved in a fatal accident was twice as high at this blood-alcohol level,” but that more recent research shows the initial data underestimated the risk.
Theresa-Anne Kramer of Mothers Against Drunk Driving strongly supports the federal plan.
"It's a very good idea. In all the countries that have lowered their limit to 0.05, with random testing, we have seen a very great decrease in the death rates," said Kramer.
In April, the federal Liberals tabled Bill C-46 which would increase the legal penalties for driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
Educ'alcool CEO Hubert Sacy said reducing the blood-alcohol limit for motorists doesn't go far enough in combatting drunk driving.
"What we need to do if we want to reduce drinking and driving is to put more roadblocks on the road, so that people know that there's a risk if they drink too much and take the wheel they will be arrested," said Sacy.
He pointed to France as an example, where the limit was lowered to 0.05 but few other anti-drunk driving strategies were implemented to complement the reduction.
“To better solve this problem, we need several conditions we still don’t have," Sacy said. "For instance, increase perception that people will be caught if they’re driving under the influence.”
In 2010 the province of Quebec tried to lower the legal limit to 0.05 but faced an outcry from bar and restaurant owners.
Kramer said the fear that consumers will stay away flies against what has happened in other countries.
"Germany hasn't stopped its beerfest, Ireland hasn't closed its pubs, and yet the death rates have gone down since they have the 0.05 limit," said Kramer.
Sacy also called for Quebec to make courses for servers in bars and restaurants to learn how to identify customers who have over imbibed mandatory and for police to increase road blocks and be allowed to administer random breathalyzers.
"Most of the things related to security are linked to provincial governments," he said. "It's not the federal government with legislative power that can find a solution, you need a series of measures, together, coordinated."
The federal government is expected to study changes in drinking and driving laws in the coming months.