At least one year of mandatory ignition interlock for all impaired drivers in Saskatchewan will prevent many from having jobs, a Saskatoon lawyer says.

As of June 27, everyone convicted of drinking and driving will be required to have the costly "blow box" devices installed in their vehicles, something most employers won't allow on company vehicles, said lawyer Ron Piche.

"In effect it does foreclose an employment opportunity for many people," he said.

The devices, which prevent vehicles from starting if alcohol is detected on the driver's breath, will be mandatory for one year after the driving prohibition has ended.

That will increase to two years for a second conviction and five years on third or subsequent convictions.

Those changes to the Traffic Safety Act appear to apply across the board, making them more onerous than Criminal Code penalties that allow prosecutors some discretion, especially if the original convictions were many years in the past, Piche said.

"The number of people who require their licence for their livelihood is huge," he said. "Five years for a third (conviction) would foreclose employment for these people. They would no longer become employable. How fair is that?" At $3.45 per day plus taxes, and about $250 in one-time fees, the devices will cost more than $1,600 for the first offence.

Equipped vehicles must be brought back to the installer every 60 days so device data can be downloaded for monitoring.

If equipment has been tampered with, the period can be extended by up to six months, said Sandy Crighton, manager of driver programs with SGI.

The only installers currently in the province are in Saskatoon and Regina, making the penalty more onerous for people who live far from those centres, Piche noted.

SGI has asked the vendor to open three more installation centres, but that won't happen immediately Crighton said.

A member of the Traffic Safety Committee that recommended the changes expressed concern about the program's impact on low-income citizens.

Dr. James Irvine, Medical Health Officer for Saskatchewan's three most northerly health regions was quoted in the committee's report: "There'll be those that it would impact them negatively ... if they were the working poor, it might have an impact on jobs or things like that. So we'd have to be careful in terms of what sort of inequalities it would result in, in terms of different economic sectors or a community."

SGI is working with the vendor on a payment plan but that is not finalized yet, Crighton said.

"There's going to be a lot of cost associated with a Criminal Code conviction and this is one of them," she said.

The change will be a boon for the Edmonton contractor, Alcolock, formerly Guardian Interlock Systems.

In 2012, 13 per cent of the almost 3,100 drivers (about 390) convicted of drinking and driving in Saskatchewan applied to use the devices before their driving prohibition ended, for special circumstances such as work, and there was no minimum time required to keep it on.

When all are required to use the interlock, Alcolock's customers will multiply almost eight-fold and will pay almost $3.9 million in daily fees alone.

If all the current users signed up for a full year, the daily fees would total about $490,000.

Saskatchewan has the highest per capita rate of impaired driving fatalities in Canada. Between 2000 and 2012, 41 per cent of deaths on the road were alcohol-related, as were 12 per cent of traffic injuries.

"Impaired driving is the main contributing factor in all crashes in Saskatchewan. We do have a really serious problem and something had to be done because we don't want to lose any more people," Crighton said.

Source: The Star Phoenix


Last updated on: 2014-04-25 | Link to this post