MADD Canada

MADD Canada

October 05, 2010 08:41 ET

MADD Canada Calls for Introduction of Random Breath Testing

Random breath testing was recommended by Federal Justice Committee, its benefits are proven, and a poll indicates Canadians would support it as a measure to reduce impaired driving.

Attention: News Editor, Transportation Editor OAKVILLE/ONTARIO/MEDIA RELEASE--(Marketwire - Oct. 5, 2010) - MADD Canada is calling on the federal government to move forward with the introduction of random breath testing and finally bring one of the most effective anti-impaired driving measures to Canada.

"The time for action is now," said MADD Canada National President Denise Dubyk. "In random breath testing, we have a measure that will reduce alcohol-related crashes by a significant percentage. We can save hundreds of lives and prevent thousands of injuries every year."

MADD Canada has undertaken several initiatives over the past year that support the case for random breath testing and its validity and viability as an effective anti-impaired driving measure in Canada:

* An Ipsos Reid poll commissioned by MADD Canada found that an overwhelming majority of Canadians supported random breath testing and agreed that it is a reasonable intrusion on drivers.

* A comprehensive review of the evidence and challenges associated with random breath testing in Canada outlines the effectiveness of random breath testing and the likelihood it will withstand a challenge under the Charter of Rights.

* An opinion piece by leading Canadian constitutional expert Peter W. Hogg offering his review of the Solomon paper and his assessment that a constitutional challenge would be unsuccessful and random breath testing would be upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada.

* An analysis to predict the impact of random breath testing on the social costs of crashes, police resources and driver inconvenience in Canada found that random breath testing will save hundreds of lives, prevent thousands of injuries and reduce the social costs of impaired driving by billions of dollars annually, without significantly increasing demands on police resources or unduly burdening the driving public.

For more information on these papers, please visit the MADD Canada web site at www.madd.ca.

"The concerns about random breath testing have been more than adequately addressed and there is no reason for any further delay on this measure," Ms. Dubyk said. "MADD Canada and victims of impaired driving all across this country are calling on Justice Minister Rob Nicholson to introduce legislation that will bring random breath testing to Canada."

No single law, awareness campaign, or education program alone will stop impaired driving. What is needed is a combination of laws, enforcement, education and awareness which work together to take impaired drivers off the roads, deter others from getting behind the wheel impaired, and effectively change attitudes and behaviours.

Provinces across Canada have been doing their part on the legislative front, introducing administrative laws and sanctions that reduce impaired driving. Now, it is time for the federal government to step forward on the issue of random breath testing and make it a reality.

"There is no reason to further delay this important, life-saving measure," Ms. Dubyk said.

The Case for Random Breath Testing

The need for random breath testing in Canada is urgent. Millions of Canadians continue to drink and drive. Impairment-related crashes continue to be the leading criminal cause of death in Canada, claiming an estimated 1,239 lives in 2007. The number and percentage of impairment-related deaths have been rising and, in 2007, they exceeded 2000 levels.

Random breath testing is one of the most effective means of deterring impaired driving and reducing deaths and injuries. It has been adopted in New Zealand, Australia and most European countries, resulting in sustained reductions in overall road crashes and fatalities.

Predicting the exact impact of random breath testing in Canada is challenging. It is unlikely that Canada will experience crash reductions in the 35% range as seen in Queensland, Australia. It is reasonable to assume, however, that Canada would see reductions in line with those in Ireland because the two countries have similar systems of sobriety checkpoints and reasonable suspicion requirements. Ireland experienced a 19% reduction in crash fatalities in the first year of random breath testing.

Assuming a crash reduction rate of 20%, some 248 deaths and 14,624 injuries would be prevented in Canada through random breath testing each year.

The Problem with Existing Breath Sample Law

Currently, police have the power to make random stops of drivers, either at an organized checkpoint or on patrol. They can demand licensing, registration and insurance papers. If they have reasonable suspicion, based on their observations and interactions with the drivers, to suspect the driver has been consuming alcohol, they can demand a non-evidentiary roadside breath test. If the test indicates the driver has a BAC of .08% or higher, the police can demand a second test on an approved instrument. The results of that second test on the approved instrument are admissible in court as evidence of the driver's BAC.

The problem with the existing law is that it is not an effective deterrent for impaired driving. The likelihood of an impaired driver ever being stopped under the current law, let alone convicted, is extremely low. Survey, criminal charge and criminal conviction data from 2006 indicate that a person would have to drive impaired, on average, once a week, every week, for more than 3 years before being charged with an impaired driving offence, and for over 6 years before ever being convicted.

Random breath testing would authorize the police to demand a breath test from any driver, increasing the likelihood of detection and thereby enhancing the deterrent effect of the law.

Concerns about Driver Inconvenience

Concerns have been raised about random breath testing being an invasion of privacy, being inconvenient for drivers and allowing police to unfairly target certain drivers. However, random breath testing is primarily used at stationary checkpoints where every passing driver is stopped for testing. There is no stigma involved or singling out of individuals on improper grounds because all drivers are asked to stop.

A comprehensive random breath testing program will require considerably more drivers to be stopped than is currently occurring, but these stops will involve only minor delay and minimum inconvenience. Based on the experiences in New Zealand, Australia and Western Europe, drivers do not need to get out of their cars and the process is quick and routine.

Furthermore, any invasion of privacy or inconvenience to the driver is minor and is not much different than the existing obligations drivers have to provide their licence, ownership and insurance if requested by police. Nor is it much different than the inconveniences faced at airports, borders, in courtrooms or other government facilities where questioning, search and seizures are applied and accepted.

"Given the potential for random breath testing to save lives and prevent injuries and reduce impaired driving overall, we believe most Canadians will be accepting of the very minor and short inconvenience for the minute or two it would take to go through a random breath checkstop," said Ms. Dubyk.

The Costs of Random Breath Testing

Despite fears that random breath testing would require significant additional police resources, an analysis of the "Impact of Random Breath Testing on the Social Costs of Crashes, Police Resources, and Driver Inconvenience in Canada" indicates the cost of random breath testing would be offset by the savings achieved as police spend less resources attending crashes and processing impaired driving suspects involved in these crashes. Moreover, random breath testing will greatly streamline the police investigation and processing of all impaired driving cases and reduce demands on the police in terms of court preparation and testifying.

Police currently spend more than $82 million on impairment-related crashes and non-crash impaired driving charges. Assuming the introduction of random breath testing will reduce total crashes and charges by 20%, the annual savings in police resources would be more than $16 million.

"Rather than having to respond to and investigate crash scenes, police can spend more of their time and resources on preventing crashes and deterring impaired drivers," Ms. Dubyk said.

Furthermore, random breath testing can be expected to reduce the overall social costs of impaired driving by more than $4.5 billion per year.

MADD Canada Resources on Random Breath Testing

* Canadian Attitudes Toward Random Breath Testing
* Random Breath Testing in Canada: A Review of the Evidence and Challenges
* Constitutional Power of Random Breath Testing
* Predicting the Impact of Random Breath Testing on the Social Costs of Crashes, Police Resources and Driver Inconvenience in Canada

About MADD Canada
MADD Canada (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) is a national, charitable organization that is committed to stopping impaired driving and supporting the victims of this violent crime. With volunteer-driven groups in more than 100 communities across Canada, MADD Canada aims to offer support services to victims, heighten awareness of the dangers of impaired driving and save lives and prevent injuries on our roads.
/For further information: For more information:
Andrew Murie, MADD Canada Chief Executive Officer, 1-800-665-6233, ext. 224
Professor Robert Solomon, MADD Canada Director of Legal Policy, 519-661-3603
Denise Dubyk, MADD Canada National President, 403-970-8733
Tracy Crawford, MADD Canada Chapter Services Manager – BC/Yukon Region, 1-877-676-6233
Louise Knox, MADD Canada Chapter Services Manager – Western Region, 1-866-900-6233
Marie Claude Morin, MADD Canada Chapter Services Manager – Quebec, 1-877-392-6233
Margaret Miller, MADD Canada National Past President, 902-758-5328

/ IN: JUSTICE, TRAVEL

Contact Information

  • Andrew Murie, Chief Executive Officer, MADD Canada
    Primary Phone: 905-829-8805 ext. 224
    Toll-Free: 800-665-6233