Lifetime driving ban coming for impaired drivers who cause death

The Ford government is touting its new impaired driving laws as the toughest in the country. As Tina Yazdani reports, impaired drivers could lose their licence for life, if they cause death.

By Meredith Bond, John Marchesan

Driving impaired and causing someone’s death will now cost you a lifetime driving ban under new measures to be introduced by the Ontario government.

In an effort to crack down on impaired driving, the Ford government’s new legislation will see anyone convicted of impaired driving causing death lose their licence for life. As well, anyone convicted of impaired driving will now have to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle upon first offence.

Ontario already has an ignition interlock program but it doesn’t apply to first offences nor is it mandatory.

Immediate roadside licence suspensions will be increased for those with first- and second-time alcohol and drug-related offences, and they will have to undergo mandatory remedial education and treatment.

“If you think there are no consequences for drinking and driving, my advice would be start planning for life without your car,” Ontario Minister of Transportation Prabmeet Sarkaria said during an announcement on Wednesday.

Sarkaria said the new legislation will be introduced Thursday and, given the government’s majority, the bill should become law fairly quickly.

The legislation will also clarify police authority to stop vehicles and administer sobriety tests for drivers on or off the highway.

This comes as the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) announced earlier this month that they would be conducting Mandatory Alcohol Screening (MAS) “as part of every traffic stop.”

“The consequences will be real here, never being able to drive again if you get behind the wheel and cause death is a serious consequence for an individual. If you are charged with impaired driving, you will have a mandatory interlock device that you cannot get away from,” said Sarkaria. “It’s really about doing anything and everything we can to ensure that we disincentivize anyone from making such a foolish choice, which is to get behind the wheel while being impaired.”

Carolyn Swinson, a volunteer with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), lost her eldest son in an impaired driving crash in 1993, which came about 12 years after her father was killed by someone who had been drinking. She also does victim support for the organization and has attended two trials in the last three weeks for people who have had family members killed.

“I know when talking to those victims…about people, someone who’s killed somebody being able to drive again, their opinion is that they shouldn’t ever be allowed to get behind the wheel of a car again,” Swinson said in voicing her organization’s support for the bill.

“So I know that all the victims…will be very, very supportive of these actions.”

Province to assist police forces in detecting drug-impaired driving

In Ontario, one in three roadway fatalities involves impaired driving. Earlier this month, the OPP said impaired driving collisions and charges are up close to 30 per cent over the previous five-year average.

The province will also be working to provide additional tools and training to help police detect drug-impaired driving and there will also be a province-wide campaign to highlight the dangers of drug-impaired driving.

The tougher legislation comes as the percentage of drivers killed while under the influence of cannabis more than doubled between 2012 and 2020.

On Tuesday, Ontario announced that it was also introducing new measures in an attempt to diminish the increase in auto theft crimes across the province.

If passed, the legislation would mean anyone convicted of an auto theft crime could face a 10-year licence suspension for a first offence, a 15-year suspension for a second offence, and a lifetime suspension for a third offence.

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