MADD Canada

MADD Canada

November 28, 2013 11:30 ET

MADD Canada Welcomes Federal Bill to Add Random Breath Testing Provisions to Criminal Code

OAKVILLE, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Nov. 28, 2013) - A proposed amendment to add random breath testing provisions to the Criminal Code will significantly reduce impaired driving in Canada, saving hundreds of lives and preventing thousands of injuries each year, says MADD Canada.

Random breath testing is a roadside breath screening test to detect impaired drivers. It has achieved significant and sustained reductions in impaired driving crash deaths in the numerous countries which have adopted it, including New Zealand, Australia and most European countries.

Random breath testing - along with several other measures to reduce impaired driving - was recommended by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in 2009 and was subsequently accepted in principle by the Government.

A Private Member's Bill, introduced today by New Democrat Member of Parliament Tarik Brahmi, would amend the Criminal Code of Canada to: enable police to demand a breath sample from drivers, as long as the police officer has an approved screening device in his or her possession; and enable police to demand a breath sample from any driver they have reasonable grounds to suspect was operating a motor vehicle that has been involved in a crash resulting in death or bodily harm to another person. Further, if police cannot identify the driver with certainty, they may demand a breath sample from any person that they have reasonable grounds to suspect was operating the vehicle.

"MADD Canada is pleased to support this major step forward in the fight to stop impaired driving," said MADD Canada National President Angeliki Souranis. "This measure will help prevent impaired driving and the senseless crashes that kill and injure thousands of Canadians every year."

Random breath testing would reduce impairment-related crash deaths and injuries by 20% in Canada annually, MADD Canada estimates. That's approximately 200 lives saved and more than 12,000 injuries prevented each year.

MADD Canada has promoted the need for random breath testing in Canada for several years. The organization has undertaken a number of initiatives and analyses to determine the cost, impact and constitutional issues associated with random breath testing:

  • Random breath testing would save $4.3 billion in health-related expenditures, lost productivity and other social costs. While random breath testing will undoubtedly increase certain police enforcement costs, these will be largely offset by a reduction in the police resources devoted to attending and following up on impairment-related crashes.
  • As with most changes to police enforcement powers, random breath testing will likely be challenged under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, legal and constitutional experts agree it will withstand legal challenge.
  • A 2010 Ipsos Reid poll indicated 77% of Canadians would support random breath testing.

The current law is not an effective deterrent. Police can only demand a roadside breath sample if they have reasonable suspicion based on behavioural clues and observations (manner of driving, the odour on a driver's breath, lack of coordination, bloodshot eyes, and slurred or indistinct speech). But people do not always exhibit these obvious signs of intoxication, particularly those who routinely drink and drive.

Millions of Canadians continue to drink and drive, in part, because the likelihood of ever being stopped or charged is so low. The majority of drinking drivers go undetected at sobriety checkpoints. In fact, based on survey, criminal charge and conviction data from 2006, 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 police to demand a breath sample from any driver. It greatly increases the number of drivers screened, and greatly increases the perception that if you drive impaired, the chance of getting caught is much higher.

A comprehensive RBT 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 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.

"When you weigh those inconveniences against the positive impact random breath testing will have in terms of saving lives and preventing injuries, we believe most Canadians will be accepting of the minute or two it will take to go through a random breath checkstop," said Ms. Souranis.

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 more information, visit www.madd.ca.

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