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POLICE ASSOCIATION OF NOVA SCOTIA 43 Blood Alcohol Limits: Canada and the World The federal government appears set to re-enter the longstanding debate about whether to reduce the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for impaired driving in the Criminal Code of Canada. The permissible BAC limit in the Criminal Code is .08 (80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood).Some advocate a lower criminal limit of .05 (50 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood). They argue that Canada lags behind other countries in its fight against impaired driving, and should follow an international trend to legislate a .05 limit. Traffic Code or Criminal Code In Canada, two levels of government deal with impaired driving. The federal Criminal Code is applied at BACs of .08 and over. In addition, nine of Canadaʼs 13 provincial and territorial jurisdictions impose administrative licence suspensions on drivers whose BAC is under .08. Those drivers immediately lose their licence for four to 24 hours, longer with subsequent violations. Driving with a BAC of .05 is not permissible under the traffic acts in most provinces and territories. The real issue is whether drivers should be criminalized if their BAC is under .08. “The priority must be to prevent alcohol-related crashes, not just to punish drinking drivers,” says Emile Therien, president of the Canada Safety Council. “Most drivers involved in alcohol-related fatal crashes have BACs over .15. Thatʼs the group the government should focus on.” Therien notes the absence of evidence that charging low-BAC drivers criminally would prevent more deaths and injuries than continuing to deal with them under provincial and territorial traffic regulations. What is the international trend? Is there an international trend to criminalize drivers at the .05 level? In 2002 the Canada Safety Council commissioned a study to provide a credible, detailed analysis of how Canadaʼs blood alcohol laws compare with other developed countries. The Council wanted a legal expert to examine Canadaʼs blood alcohol limits objectively in the international context. Law professor David Paciocco, from the University of Ottawa, compared Canadaʼs blood alcohol legislation with similar laws in countries which have similar legal and political traditions. In Canadaís Blood Alcohol Laws - an International Perspective he found that approaches to BAC law internationally are complex and varied. The report was updated in March 2006 to determine whether recent developments affect its conclusions. “There have been changes,” says Professor Paciocco, “but they do not alter the conclusions in my original report. Countries and jurisdictions with .05 limits still tend not to use criminal law approaches, which is what Canada would be doing by amending the Criminal Code.” Canada Safety Council C A N A D A ’ S V O I C E A N D R E S O U R C E F O R S A F E T Y continued...

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