North Vancouver RCMP Const. Jas Dosanjh talks to a driver at a roadside checkstop. Police do an admirable job of catching impaired drivers, but the penalties for those who get busted need to be stiffer, writes Brendan McAleer.

I enjoy driving – I find it a pleasure and a joy.

Last Saturday I got up at 5 a.m. in a cabin east of Lillooet and drove 1,000 kilometres in a single day, honking up the highway (responsibly) to Bella Coola and back down through the Fraser Canyon’s tunnels. It was absolutely wonderful, and if I’d been previously caught driving while under the influence of alcohol, it’s the kind of thing that should absolutely be denied to me. Driving is my privilege; it is not my right.

There have been several high-profile cases of impaired driving recently, both locally and nationally. It’s a story we hear all too often, where a drunk driver kills or injures somebody who was just trying to get home safely. I’m sick of reading about it, and it needs to stop.

There are multiple definitions of driving while impaired, alcohol and distracted driving being the most common. Texting and driving still makes the headlines these days, as drinking and driving is no longer socially acceptable. Texting and driving is potentially just as dangerous, but it’s in the public eye these days, and the police appear to have multiple tools to deal with it, and the penalties are growing in severity.

But it’s disturbing that drinking and driving is still such a problem. Still. Why? It’s even more disturbing that people who are caught driving while under the influence seem to wriggle away. The current minimum is a 24-hour roadside suspension, which while inconvenient, is hardly a deterrent.

There are two things that will prevent this sort of thing from happening, hopefully within my lifetime. The first is technology: the semi-autonomous car is already making roads safer, with automatic braking systems that can stop a car quicker than any human’s reaction time, impaired or not. Initially only available in luxury vehicles, this tech is trickling into Hondas and Toyotas, with the latter planning on rolling out a suite of driver aids as standard equipment.

As a result, cars may get more expensive. Again, driving is a privilege, and we’ve grown to accept and expect everything from standard airbags to backup cameras.

Sometime in the future, somebody will climb into their car after having had one too many, and head home after dark. They won’t see the pedestrian crossing at the light – but their car will. Nobody will get hurt. I hope it happens sooner rather than later.

Unfortunately, with Canadians keeping our cars an average of around seven years, it’ll be a long time before technology is able to save us from ourselves. But there is something we can do sooner, and it’s to call for the end of the 24-hour suspension. It’s simply not enough.

Driving while impaired is dangerous enough that the first offence needs to be treated with full and severe punishment.

While I’d like to joke that offenders be placed in a pillory at Lonsdale Quay, or that they be catapulted into Burrard Inlet, this is simple and serious advice. The mandatory minimum suspension should be 90 days, effective immediately upon getting busted at the side of the road.

Ninety days of taxicabs, buses, and just plain using your legs is enough to leave a lasting memory. Those who screw up will think twice about doing it again. The guy who wonders aloud why I’m turning down the lunchtime beer won’t wonder any more.

If you drive through Lion’s Bay completely sober at 100-plus kilometres per hour, they’ll take your car away. The road there seems easily safe enough to support the speed, but the deterrent is enough to have people lift their foot off the gas. Some folks still go 90 km/h, but at least they’re thinking about the potential for major fines and confiscation and backing off at least that much.

Similarly, the consequences for drinking and driving should be so extreme as to be in the back of your mind before you get in your car. It should be such a pain in the ass to get caught that you’ll deal with leaving the car parked and picking it up the next day.

In short, the driver should face the consequences before the public has to. I’ve had enough of this sort of nonsense. I expect you have as well.

Source: North Shore News


Last updated on: 2016-07-04 | Link to this post