MADD Canada

MADD Canada

December 16, 2010 11:24 ET

MADD Canada: Quebec Taking Step Backward in Fight Against Impaired Driving

Impaired Drivers Win, Road Safety Loses as Quebec Abandons Plans for .05% Sanctions

OAKVILLE, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Dec. 16, 2010) - The Province of Quebec's failure to address the road safety risks of drivers with BACs of .05% or higher is a serious mistake, and a step backwards in the fight against impaired driving, says MADD Canada.

While we are pleased with the government's decision to move forward with a .00% BAC requirement for drivers up to 21 years of age, we are disappointed that an important component of Bill 71, the .05% BAC sanctions, was dropped.

Research and studies have consistently shown that even small amounts of alcohol can impair driving ability and that drivers with BACs of .05% and above are at higher risks for crashes than drivers with lower BACs.

"This issue was studied and analyzed; it was recommended by Quebec's Road Safety Table; it was debated at the Commission earlier this year; and it has widespread support from traffic safety organizations," said MADD Canada Chief Executive Officer Andrew Murie. "Yet the Government of Quebec has now rejected all of that and reversed its decision to implement .05% BAC sanctions. Why?"

Critics of the proposed measures, particularly those in the hospitality industry, have perpetuated a number of myths about .05% sanctions. They suggest the sanctions are a strike against those who only drink socially, and they predict the sanctions will do irreparable harm to bars and restaurants. The facts are, however, that BAC sanctions will not affect what most Canadians consider to be social drinking. Further, studies have shown that .05% BAC limits have little long-term impact on hospitality industries.

The focus on decreased revenues within one industry are surprising and disappointing when one considers the substantially higher costs of impaired driving – both in human costs and in financial costs around health care, lost productivity, police resources and other costs.

"All the fear-mongering about .05% sanctions has apparently been successful," Mr. Murie said. "These sanctions would reduce impaired driving crashes, save lives and prevent injuries, yet Quebec has rejected them. We all need to be asking what the priorities of the Government are here." 

Critics have disputed the need for .05% BAC sanctions, suggesting that impaired driving crashes, deaths and injuries are caused primarily by drivers who are well over the legal limit of .08%. There are two problems with those claims.

Firstly, roughly 20 per cent of crashes are caused by drivers with BACs under .08%. That makes up a significant portion of the 200 deaths and 600 injuries that are caused by impaired driving at all BAC levels each year in Quebec.

Secondly, while the Criminal Code limit is .08%, charges are seldomly pursued if the driver registers under .10%. Defence lawyers argue that, given the margin of error with the breath testing machines, the level might have been artificially high and the driver was actually below .08%. For that reason, police and prosecutors are hesitant to pursue charges unless the reading is .10% or more and the reading cannot be questioned. 

The result is that there are drivers on the road with BACs ranging from .05% to .10% who represent a significant risk for impairment-related crashes but who, for all intents and purposes, have no real fear of being charged or taken off the road.

Based on that reality, a 195 lb. man can have six standard drinks (13.46 grams of alcohol per drink) in a two hour period and have little fear of being charged. Likewise, a 145 lb. woman can have three standard drinks in a two hour period.

"Think about that," said Mr. Murie. "At that number of drinks within that brief a timeframe, those drivers are dangerously impaired and are at serious risk for impairment-related crashes. Who would get into a car being driven by someone who's had 6 drinks in a two hour period? Would you allow a loved one to get in the car with that driver?"

Provincial sanctions at the .05% BAC level would give police a tool to take drivers impaired at lower BACs level off the road and would also give them a means of dealing with those drivers who, while over the .08% Criminal Code level, would seldomly face successful prosecution on impaired driving charges.

"In any other jurisdiction in Canada, those drivers would face licence suspensions, fines and other sanctions. Yet in Quebec, those drivers can go on their way with no fear of sanctions and little fear of criminal charges," Mr. Murie said. "The message here is that in Quebec, you can legally drive with a BAC level that is unanimously recognized everywhere else in Canada and in most developed nations as dangerous."

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. 

Contact Information

  • MADD Canada
    Marie Claude Morin
    MADD Canada Chapter Services Manager - Quebec
    514-392-1550 or 1-877-392-6233