Cops Get New Tools in Drinking & Driving Enforcement – Expected to Be Implemented in Spring, 2012


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Alberta's controversial Bill 26 passed in legislature on Dec.7/11 which toughens laws against drunk driving. At the time, Alberta's Solicitor General, Jonathan Denis said while the bill is passed, Albertans won't be seeing any changes in the law for at least six months. This timeframe may be shortened as a result of the upcoming April Provincial election.

Go figure.

It sure sounds like the sight of cops taking vehicles and licences from folks behind the wheel who blow .05 to .08 won’t be seen until after the upcoming provincial election.

Good thing if your immediate job is to score more Xs on ballots than the other team.

Yes, poking the hornet’s nest is a real good way to get stung.

Better to calm the aggravation and try and buy four years of breathing room so individuals get used to the idea.

Jonathan Denis, Alberta’s top cop, knocks on doors Thursday in Calgary and says he’s “cautiously optimistic” about a Tory win in a ballot battle where Albertans are now expected to vote in April.

As for the province’s new drinking and driving law, all Denis can say with certainty is it will be in force sometime in 2012.

Er … can you be a little more specific?

“If I was a betting man it will be within the next six months.”

Bill 26 will be implemented following Alberta's April, 2012 Election. Anyone with a Graduated Driver's Licence found with any blood alcohol level in their blood will be subjected to a 30-day licence suspension and 7-day vehicle seizure.

So it won’t be on the streets until after the election?

“I can’t tell you one way or the other,” says Denis.

But he does caution there has to be a provincial campaign educating the public on the law before anyone is hit with the lawbook upside the head.

No doubt the government will say their law doesn’t stop people from having a drink, though members of the Redford government have said it’s better to not even have one drink if you’re going to drive.

They will say the new rules hit repeat offenders hardest and there are no fines or demerit points in the mix.

As well as a campaign to convince the public the law is for our own good, the province is replacing roadside screening devices with better ones. Police will want training before enforcing the new law.

The province will also need to get a computer system up and running to catalogue all the suspensions since each time you’re caught from .05 to .08 the penalties go up.

The first time at .05 to .08, you lose your licence and wheels for three days.

Second time, it’s 15 days without a licence and a week without a vehicle. Third time, it’s 30 days without a licence and a week without your car or truck.

Second and third time you also have to take a course on how to behave and you pay for the privilege.

Towing and storage fees are on your tab.

Rob Anderson of the Wildrose is also knocking on doors.

He’s in Airdrie.

Anderson, not a man known to mince words, is hearing the gripes at the door over a law he calls “stupid” and “targeting the wrong people.”

He laughs when he hears it appears the .05 law will come in after the spring scrap for seats in the legislature.

He never thought it would be otherwise.

“Are you kidding? That would be election over. Just the thought of enforcing it makes people irate,” says the pull-no-punches MLA.

“If you’re looking for something bugging people, this is it. People are furious. Every third or fourth door they bring up the .05 law. It’s like clockwork.” What do they say? “I can’t stand this

premier telling us how to live our lives. It’s just like the gun registry,” says Anderson before adding, “and we know how parties who like gun registries fare in Alberta.” Ouch.

Far away, in rainy Toronto, the premier says one thing won’t wait until the election and that’s the promised probe into the health-care mess.

Anderson isn’t biting, thinking no way and no how can he see a public inquiry rolling along with damaging testimony in print and on the airwaves while the Tories are trying to stay in power.

“She knows what she’s doing. She may announce the who, what, when and where, we already know the why, but she’s neither that dumb nor that honest to let the skeletons out of the closet. She’ll deal with the fallout after the election — if she’s still premier.”

Yes indeed, that is the smell of an election your political nostrils catch in the air, where much fear and an equal measure of loathing will be tossed hither and yon by everyone at the main event.

The only real question is for which party will it smell like victory.

MLAs in Edmonton voted 30 to 7 in favour of the bill which would see a three day suspension and possible car seizure for drivers caught with a blood alcohol reading from 0.05 to 0.08.

Harsher punishments are expected for repeat offenders who blow a blood alcohol reading of over 0.08.

The punishment increases each time a driver is caught:

  • The first offense will result in a three day license suspension
  • A second offense will result in a 15 day license suspension, a seven day vehicle seizure, and a mandatory education course to be paid for by the offender
  • A third offense is a 30 day license suspension, a seven day vehicle seizure, and a further education course paid for by the offender

Bill 26 would keep licence suspensions in place for people caught with more than .08 of blood alcohol content until their cases are dealt with in court.

Convicted drivers would then have to participate in a mandatory ignition interlock program, where their vehicle will not start if they have any alcohol in their blood.

Repeat offenders also face escalating penalties under the proposed legislation. Drivers convicted of impaired driving for the third time will have to participate in the vehicle interlock program for five years.

Drinking and Driving in Alberta

At a Glance – Strengthening Alberta’s approach to impaired driving

Alberta’s approach

  • This legislation does not prevent responsible Albertans from having a drink with dinner or friends.
  • Instead, it targets repeat offenders in particular.
  • Alberta does not believe that fines are the solution. These changes do not include fines or new demerit point offenses.
  • Instead, our focus is on safer roads. This made-in-Alberta approach focuses on changing behaviours through mandatory courses and ignition interlock.
  • Alberta is focusing on Criminal Code offences, repeat offenders and new drivers.
  • Education and enforcement are both key to Alberta’s approach.

Key Changes

For drivers with blood alcohol over .08:For drivers with Blood Alcohol .05 to .08:
History: Alberta’s mandatory ignition interlock has proven effective for repeat offenders, drivers with blood alcohol more than double the legal limit (over .16) and those refusing breathalyzers. Prior to the recent changes Alberta had licence suspensions but no vehicle seizures for drivers above .08.History: While Alberta currently can suspend drivers suspected of being under the influence, the new rules specify increasing sanctions. These drivers are not and will not be subject to Criminal Code prosecutions.
  • Immediate licence suspension which is sustained until criminal charge is resolved.
  • 1st offence – sustained licence suspension and 3-day vehicle seizure.
  • 2nd offence – sustained licence suspension, 7- day vehicle seizure.
  • 3rd offence – sustained licence suspension, 7-day vehicle seizure.
  • Mandatory ignition interlock after criminal conviction (over .08) – 1 year for 1st offence; 3 years for 2nd offence; 5 years for 3rd offence.
  • 1st offence – 3-day licence suspension and 3-day vehicle seizure.
  • 2nd offence – 15-day licence suspension, 7-day vehicle seizure, “Planning Ahead” course.
  • 3rd offence -30-day licence suspension, 7-day vehicle seizure, “Impact” course.


For new drivers:
History: Alberta will continue to allow Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) to begin at the age of 14. All GDL drivers are already subject to zero tolerance for blood alcohol and receive a 30-day suspension.
  • GDL driver found with blood alcohol – 30-day licence suspension and 7-day vehicle seizure.

Bill 26

Bill 26:  Traffic Safety Amendment Act, 2011 (Danyluk)
First Reading:Nov. 21 aft. (H.1204) — passed
Second Reading:Nov. 22 aft. (H.1238)
Nov. 23 aft. (H.1306-17)
Nov. 23 eve. (H.1323-37) — passed
Committee of the Whole:Nov. 28 eve. (H.1437-46)
Nov. 30 eve. (H.1545-61)
Dec. 5 eve. (H.1631-43)
Dec. 6 aft. (H.1673-79) — passed on division with amendments
Third Reading:Dec. 6 eve. (H.1685-99) — passed on division
Royal Assent:Dec. 8 outside of House sitting
Comes into force:on proclamation; SA 2011; c22

View Bill 26 (PDF) 862.528KB


A1 – Nov 28, 2011

In December, Alberta passed new legislation allowing for license suspensions and vehicle seizures for motorists driving with a .05 per cent blood-alcohol level, in line with similar legislation already enacted in B.C.

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