Law professor Robert Solomon didn't mince words when he weighed in recently on the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of the legal framework to curb drinking and driving in Canada.

His immediate trigger for blasting some of "the dumbest impaired-driving laws on the face of planet" was a U.S. report ranking this country worst among 19 wealthy nations when it comes to crash deaths involving alcohol impairment.

Booze is a factor, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in just over a third of Canadian traffic fatalities, slightly more than south of the border and much higher than the average of just under one in five.

Solomon, a professor at Western University in London, Ont., clearly has an agenda as national legal director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a respected advocacy group on the stubborn problem.

But he is absolutely right that the numbers in the report should make Canadians sit up, take notice and seriously consider two legal changes that have made a huge difference in other countries where they've been enacted.

The first is lowering the legal blood-alcohol limit from .08 (that is, 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood) to .05, the point at which Solomon said research has shown driving ability is significantly impaired.

With so much at stake in terms of lost lives and needless misery, that modest reduction — really just a minor crimp on responsible social drinking — would seem to be entirely justified given the progress made elsewhere.

The second measure, allowing police to routinely require drivers to submit to roadside breath screening, is a little trickier, but also well worth a thorough cost-benefit analysis.

As the law stands, police can only ask for a breath sample if they have reasonable grounds — usually established by indicia such as slurred speech, glassy eyes and an odour of alcohol — to suspect a driver is impaired.

Are we collectively willing to surrender a little of our cherished freedom, the right not to be arbitrarily compelled to blow into a machine, if it means more drunk drivers will be caught and others deterred from getting behind the wheel at all?

Lawmakers are wrestling with that question right now, in fact, with legislation to allow so-called mandatory roadside screening scheduled for study by a parliamentary committee in the fall.

Solomon has certainly let them know where he stands. The rest of us would do well to do the same.

Source: The Record

Last updated on: 2016-08-17 | Link to this post