POLICE ASSOCIATION OF NOVA SCOTIA 45 Based on his analysis, Paciocco seriously questions arguments based on trends in foreign legislation to justify changes in Canadaʼs blood alcohol law. “If international trends are going to be used at all,” he suggests, “it would be more relevant to ask if Canadaís practice of not using criminal law for drivers under .08 is in line with the trend. Definitely it is.” Of the 77 jurisdictions examined in the report, only eight, or slightly over 10 percent, see fit to treat .05 as a crime. Canada Already Very Strict A comparison of potential penalties at .09 for first offenders shows Canada treats BAC offenders very harshly compared with other countries. Canadian law allows for the highest possible maximum prison sentence - five years. The next longest possible prison sentence, even in the United States where jail is more widely used, is two years. A first offender in Canada at .09 would likely receive the minimum sentence of a $600 fine, which is significant by international standards. The Canadian suspension for a first BAC offender ranks among the strictest in the world. Our Criminal Code sanctions for .09 BAC offenders are already stricter than most jurisdictions internationally. If the Criminal Code were to simply to substitute .05 for .08, it would treat drivers and those in care and control of motor vehicles at that level the same as it currently treats .09 BAC offenders. That would make Canada the harshest regime among comparative nations for .05 offenders. “Quite simply,” concludes Professor Paciocco, “if we change the .08 BAC in the Criminal Code to .05, we will not be doing so to keep up with the international Joneses, because .05 is not the standard of criminality internationally. We will instead be joining the minority of nations who criminalize this BAC, and imposing what would be the most onerous sentencing regime among comparative countries.” Dealing with Lower-BAC Drivers “It is important to send a strong message to drinking drivers with BACs below the .08 level,” says Therien. “We want to prevent them from causing harm and prevent them from joining the high-BAC group, but this can be done very effectively outside the Criminal Code.” The Canada Safety Council advocates harmonization of provincial and territorial regulations, as well as enhanced intervention programs, enforcement and public education. The Council also recommends treating administrative licence suspensions in a similar way to traffic violations. Therien points out that Canada is making progress in its fight against impaired driving. In 2003, road crashes involving a driver who had been drinking took 902 lives, down 30 percent from 1995, when 1,296 motor vehicle deaths involved a drinking driver. He says over-use of the Criminal Code could compromise the effectiveness of regulations which have contributed to this progress. © 2006 Canada Safety Council (...Blood Alcohol Limits: Canada and the World continued)