Drinking and Driving Laws Implemented in Ontario on May 1, 2009 (Bill 203)


See a previous post, posted on March 3, 2009.

Since the R.I.D.E (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere) was introduced as a police procedure in 1977 in Etobicoke, Ontario (the “E” in RIDE, originally stood for Etobicoke) it has evolved, with the approval and condonation of the Supreme Court of Canada. Initially it was argued (pre-Charter) that citizen’s did not have to submit to a breath sample, under this program and to stop a motorist to perform this police procedure, was tantamount to arbitrarily detaining and imprisoning the driver – the Supreme Court disagreed (see Dedman v. The Queen);  the Supreme Court also recognized that section 48 of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, gave police the legal right to stop motorists through the R.I.D.E program (see R. v. Decorte). After the Charter was implemented in Canada, a number of people argued that R.I.D.E infringed upon their Charter rights, specifically section 9 (Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned) and section 10, subsection (b) (Everyone has the right on arrest and detention (b) to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right) these arguments were rejected by the Supreme Court of Canada. Since that time, the law, which has become harsher and harsher in Ontario, has evolved to where it is today. It has not and will not remain static.

Prior to May 1, 2009, drivers who were pulled over and blew into a roadside breathalyzer, whose breath sample registered a blood alcohol content between 0.05 and 0.08 were subjected to a driver’s licence temporary suspension of twelve (12) hours pursuant to section 48 of the Highway Traffic Act. The most recent amendments, through Bill 203, to the Highway Traffic Act, radically change this procedure.

Many Provinces have dealt with motorists reading between .05 and .08 by impounding their vehicles and taking away their drivers’ licences for 12 hours or more. All 50 states in the United States of America have adopted legislation which makes it illegal for any driver of a motor vehicle to have 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood (0.08%) blood alcohol content, while operating a motor vehicle.  If you are apprehended by law enforcement in the States you will be arrested for DWI (Driving While Impaired or Under Influence of Alcohol or, in some instances, under the Influence of Drugs or other Intoxicants).

See Order Approving Certain Breath Analysis Instruments as Suitable for the Purposes of Section 258 of the Criminal Code (Approved Breath Analysis Instruments Order SI/85-201)

Last year a number of Ontario Regulations (287/08,405/08 & 407/08) amending the Highway Traffic Act were passed and those laws came into force effective May 1, 2009. These laws are specifically designed to deal with motorists on Ontario highways, who consume alcohol and then drive a motor vehicle.

Effective May 1 ,  2009:

Effective May 1, 2009 any motorist in Ontario who is stopped by a police officer and provides a sample of breath (breathalyzer) which registers a blood alcohol content anywhere between 0.05 and 0.08 will automatically have their driver’s licence suspended for a period of three (3) days. If the same driver is pulled over again, for a second time (within five (5) years of the first administrative suspension of their driver’s licence) and their blood alcohol content again registers anywhere between 0.05 and 0.08, the driver’s driving licence will be suspended for seven (7) days and that driver must then enroll and complete a remedial alcohol education program. If the same driver is pulled over a third time or more (within five (5) years of the last administrative suspension of their driver’s licence) and their blood alcohol content registers anywhere between 0.05 and 0.08, their driver’s licence will be suspended for thirty (30) days and they must then enroll and complete a remedial alcohol education program and will have a “ignition interlock” condition placed on their driver’s licence for a full six (6) months. There will be no mechanism to allow the driver to appeal the police officer’s decision to suspend the driver’s licence and there will be a record of the suspension on the driver’s driving record with the Ministry of Transportation for a period of five (5) years. If the driver is charged under the Criminal Code of Canada and subsequently convicted of impaired driving, the conviction remains on the driver’s record with the Ministry of Transportation for a minimum period of ten (10) years.

In addition to these suspensions noted above, each driver convicted of a second or third offence will have to undergo a Remedial Alcohol Education Program(“Back on Track”) (paid for by the driver = $606.90) and any driver convicted of a third offence will have to undergo the “Back on Track” Education Program and will also have an Install Ignition Interlock condition on their driver’s licence for six (6) months (paid for by the driver – about $750 over 6 months + taxes). The out of pocket expenses incurred for the Education Program and Ignition Interlock will pale in comparison to the increase in Auto Insurance premiums(for at least six (6) years).  Money is only money and can always be replaced, the lives of our loved ones and friends, once lost, can never be replaced.

See Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Calculator.

On April 23, 2009 Bill 126 received Royal Assent and became law. This Bill is expected to come into force in the spring or summer of 2010. This Bill does not allow Novice or Young Driver’s (21 years and younger) to have any alcohol whatsoever in their system while operating a motor vehicle.  Here are some highlights of Bill 126:

What changes have been made to the Highway Traffic Act (the H.T.A) as a result of the enactment of Bill 126 ? :

Bill 126 increases many of the financial fines under the H.T.A (sections 106,130,144 & 146 and 200):

Seatbelts – see Section 106 of the H.T.A – fine was $60 to $500 (see general penalty) increases to $200 to $1,000

Careless Driving – see Section 130 of the H.T.A – fine was $200 to $1,000 increases to $400 to $2,000

Failure to Stop at Red Light/Red Light Camera – see Sections 144 & 146 of the H.T.A – fine was $150 to $500 this fine increases to $200 to $1,000.00

Duty of person in charge of vehicle in case of accident (remain or immediately return to scene of accident, render all possible assistance and provide particulars upon request) – see  Penalty Section 200 (2) of the H.T.A. – fine was $200 to $1,000 increases to $400 to $2,000.00

There have been a number of changes to the Highway Traffic Act, through this Bill, which are aimed at drinking and drugged driving:

Novice Drivers and Young Drivers must drive without any alcohol in their system. If they fail to do so, they will be looking at a fine of anywhere between sixty dollars ($60.00) and five hundred dollars ($500.00) if convicted of violating this new section 44.1 of the H.T.A. A young driver is defined as a driver younger than twenty-two (22) years of age. If a young driver is pulled over and it is discovered that he/she has alcohol in their system, they will be charged and in addition to the fine reflected above, upon conviction, their driver’s licence will be suspended for thirty (30) days. Novice driver’s, upon conviction will be fined and could have their licence cancelled, reclassified or suspended.

See Ontario Regulations 287/08, 405/08 and 407/08 which all came into effect on May 1, 2009.

Ontario is now boasting that it has the safest highways in North America and that the fatality rates on Ontario Highways are the lowest, in 78 years (since 1931).

Prince Edward Island is also taking steps to minimize drinking and driving.

Update: June 19, 2009- Young Driver faces a yearly insurance rate of $20,400.00, if convicted. See story

Update: September 9, 2009 – Impaired Driver sentenced to Life Sentence in Quebec.

Update: January 5, 2010 – between Nov.27/09 to Jan.4/10 over 1 million (1,174,224) motorists were pulled over by the OPP’s R.I.D.E and 298 driver’s were charged with impaired driving and 5,031 other charges were laid during this passage of time.  See the O.P.P’s January 4, 2010 news release.

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  5. My husband lost his father to a drunk driver many years ago. My husband would NEVER get behind of the wheel if had been drunk. Up north for several years, we never ventured out at night in case the one or two or three drinks would impair us enough to drive. One fateful night, 5 of us family members went to a Karaoke place…for one or two drinks….at the most. Police were visible…I work for a local Police department…so I recognized they were going to be checking anyone that pulled away from the bar. My husband chose to drive…after one and a half coolers within 3 and a half hours. The rest of us had drank much more. He was sober. Our cottage was 3 minutes from the bar. Sure enough the Police were waiting…pulled us over 800 metres before our road to the cottage. Long story short..they informed me, & family members that my husband was under arrest for blowing over .08. I was in shock…our vehicle reeked of alcohol…but NOT FROM HIM. He is on constant blood pressure meds…never drinks when driving but made the mistake of ONE & A HALF COOLERS. Just before the Police sped off to get him to the station (2hour drive from our location) I aksed them for badge numbers & where they were taking him. THEY TOLD ME “YOU DON’T NEED THAT INFORMATION”. Then they took off like a bullet when the Sgt. told the Constable driving “”let’s go now”.
    I was frantic. My husband told me he asked to put his seat belt on…the Sgt. replied “you won’t need it”. They FLEW to the station in order to get there within the TWO HOUR LIMIT. Travelling at 110 to 120 kms in an 80 km zone. Down dark and winding roads. No Seat Belt. End Result…my husband failed the breathalyzer. The police officers lied in court about how fast they were travelling to get to a station with a breath tech…TWO HOURS AWAY at posted speeds…..they seemed to make it under an hour and 20 mins.
    In court the police said they were driving “maybe 90 kms”. Liars. We did the math over and over. They violated his rights. They blatantly ignored my simple questions for badge numbers & where they were taking him. Now he is faced with severe physical & mental health issues, along with financial ruin because the police chose to “rack up their brownie points” without any regard to Higway Safety..(they were way over the limit for safety reasons). Our lawyer sucked. We met him the night beofre the trial. We paid over $10,000.00 & we lost. I am disgusted in this system. If he had badly assaulted someone or killed them…he’d have a lighter sentence.
    This is MADD NESS.

  6. I think when you blow over and have not been in an accident or killed anyone it should not be treated as if you did. Who did we elect to government it seems like MADD says do this and the government says ok. If you just blow over should it be a criminal charge should you be in jail. These people loss there jobs and families also with a criminal record is that a fair sentence for blowing over. If you go and watch court you will see worse offences are getting less the system is only interested in drinking and driving. I buried a husband over a drunk driver and he got nothing. I phoned back on track and they told me what a wonderful program it is and I said then why do you wait until the youth get in trouble to give them this course. I said it should be given well they are doing the graduating license, they did not want to hear that.

  7. As a police officer, this is my view-
    Over 0.08/impaired is a criminal offence.
    0.05-0.08 was a 12-hour suspension, which was not a penalty but an administration suspension to ensure that the drivers blood alcohol level was not increasing, and could be on the rise to 0.08. This was simply in the interest of safety. In 12 hours the person will surely not be impaired unless they consume more alcohol. For the general population, this is unlikely.

    Now the 0.05-0.08 level will result in a 3 day suspension for the first offense under the Highway Traffic Act (not the criminal code). This is clearly a penalty, and not just in the interest of safety. The government is not concerned about someone driving at 0.05 because their alcohol level may be increasing to 0.08, the government is concerned that people are driving at the 0.05 level, regardless of whether the alcohol level is increasing or not.

    If driving at 0.05 is so dangerous that it needs to be stopped, why not decrease the legal limit in the criminal code to 0.05 instead of 0.08?

    This new Highway Traffic Law makes absolutely no sense to me.

    If you want to penalize someone for driving at 0.05, make it criminal.

  8. If the government really wants to save lives (instead of just collect revenue ) why don’t they just ban chocolate bars and potato chips. I’m sure trans fat kills many more people then d & d ever will.

    Also they don’t seem to know the difference between having a few drinks and DRUNK driving.

    More money for the government, lawyers, and greedy insurance companies.


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