POLICE ASSOCIATION OF NOVA SCOTIA 71 Criminalization There is no evidence that charging low-BAC drivers under the federal Criminal Code would prevent more deaths and injuries than dealing with them under provincial and territorial traffic regulations. Making conduct criminal is societyʼs ultimate condemnation. The Criminal Code of Canada addresses offences such as murder, rape and assault, that violate basic societal norms. Criminal Code sanctions are very severe. For example, a criminal conviction, be it for armed robbery or for driving with a BAC over 0.08 limits travel and job opportunities for the rest of the offenderʼs life. Justifiably the legal process to charge and convict a felon is intricate and costly. Provincial and territorial transport officials, represented in the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA), have taken a position against lowering the criminal BAC to 0.05. According to CCMTA, this would hamper the ability of the police to detect drivers with a BAC greater than 0.08 (who are a greater crash risk), due to the over-extending of enforcement resources. CCMTA says a move to criminalize drivers who are at lower risk of collision involvement would further burden an overtaxed criminal justice system without increasing the deterrent effect of the law. Recommendations Canada is making impressive progress in its fight against impaired driving. Between 1995 and 2000, road fatalities involving a drinking driver dropped by one-third. The problem is far from solved, but this progress indicates that countermeasures now in place are working. How to deal with drivers with BACs below the Criminal Code limit has been the subject of much debate. The Canada Safety Council has developed the following recommendations to offer a realistic and practical direction for public policy. 1. Deal with low-BAC drivers under highway traffic acts. Driving ability can be impaired at low BACs, although the incidence of fatalities rises dramatically starting at 0.15. The federal Criminal Code addresses higher BAC drivers starting at 0.08, who are implicated in the majority of alcohol-related road fatalities. It is important to deal firmly with individuals with BACs below the 0.08 level, both to prevent them from causing immediate harm and to ensure they do not join the high-BAC group. The Canada Safety Council recommends that the responsibility to address drivers with BACs below 0.08 remain with the provinces and territories. Highway traffic acts provide effective regulatory tools. For example, administrative licence suspensions enable police to apprehend low-BAC drivers, remove them from the road and give them a firm warning not to continue drinking and driving. These acts also provide a means to mandate intervention programs, which can help prevent these people from becoming chronic drinking drivers. 2. Harmonize the BAC at which administrative licence suspensions are imposed. Canadaʼs 13 jurisdictions vary widely in their criteria for administrative licence suspensions, as discussed in the January 2004 issue of this newsletter. This inconsistency can create confusion and inequities. The Canada Safety Council recommends a common BAC for short-term suspensions in all jurisdictions. This would provide greater consistency across Canada, and would permit a stronger message to be sent to the Canadian public to increase awareness of penalties for drinking and driving. continued... (...Low BAC Drivers and the Law continued)