Although it’s too late for his family, a Saskatchewan father whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver says proposed “game-changing” legislation changes will keep roads safer.

“I have watched this process unfold, and I can say that government was very serious about making sound and impactful change,” said former MP and MLA Allan Kerpan, whose daughter, Danille, was killed in 2014 by a drunk driver.

“With this game-changing legislation, the government can take great credit in knowing they are saving lives in Saskatchewan.”

The provincial government on Monday announced massive amendments to The Traffic Safety Act, which if approved will take effect Jan. 1, 2017. Some of the key changes:

  • Zero tolerance for alcohol or drugs for drivers 21 and younger and for all new drivers. A 60-day license suspension on a first offence still applies. Currently, there is zero tolerance for drivers 19 years old and younger, and for all new drivers.

  • A three-day vehicle seizure for experienced drivers charged for the first time with blood alcohol content over .04. Currently, there is no vehicle seizure for drivers in that situation.

  • The ignition interlock laws will be strengthened. Under the changes, duration for those between .08 and .16 or impaired will be will be one year for a first offence, three years on a second offence and 10 years for three offences and more. The duration for drivers over .16 or refusing a breath sample will be two years for a first offence, five years for a second offence and 10 years after that.

  • Currently, drivers are prohibited from using a cellphone while driving. Under the proposed changes, drivers will be prohibited from holding, viewing, using or manipulating a cellphone while driving.

According to the provincial government, 44 per cent of traffic fatalities in the province are alcohol related. In 2015, 53 people were killed and 578 injured in impaired-driving related collisions. Impaired driving rates in Saskatchewan are 620 per 100,000 people, nearly triple the national average of 210 per 100,000.

“These amendments build on changes the province made in 2014 to strengthen impaired driving laws,” Justice Minister and Attorney General Gordon Wyant said in a prepared statement.

“Once passed, Saskatchewan will join Alberta and British Columbia in having some of the most effective impaired driving legislation in Canada. Our government also continues to explore other avenues to bring down the number of impaired driving deaths and injuries in the province, including closer examination of the full B.C. model.”

The government said the changes specify people 21 years old and younger because drivers in that age demographic “are involved in significantly more alcohol-related collisions compared to drivers under 19.” According to SGI statistics, 20 per cent of total crashes by drivers 21 and under involved alcohol, compared to four per cent of drivers under 19. As well, drivers 21 and under were involved in 10 fatal crashes last year, compared to two involving drivers under 19.

SGI is investing $800,000 in 32 more automated licence plate readers (ALPRs) to help police catch disqualified drivers, bringing the total number of ALPRs to 47 in the province. As well, SGI is providing $500,000 for law enforcement to increase check stops targeting impaired driving.

“Drinking and driving has taken far too many lives in this province and people need to get the message that it is never acceptable, period,” Minister responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance Joe Hargrave said in a prepared statement. “Our government is committed to reducing the number of lives lost and people injured due to impaired driving.”

(From left): Jordan Van De Vorst, 34; Chanda Van De Vorst, 33; daughter Kamryn, age five; and son Miguire, age two. The family was killed in a collision near Saskatoon on Jan. 3, 2015. Catherine Loye McKay, 49, was charged with impaired driving causing death.

Louis Van de Vorst’s son Jordan, daughter-in-law Chanda and grandchildren Kamryn and Miguire were killed in January near Saskatoon by a drunk driver. Van de Vorst said he was impressed with the changes, calling them a very good start. 

“I like the fact that they are increasing the penalties,” he said. “I like the fact that they are giving law enforcement more tools to use to cut down on the impaired driving.”

Curbing drinking and driving is more than just enforcement, he added. 

“It has to get to society,” said Van de Vorst. “Impaired driving is not an acceptable norm.”

Kerpan said the province is trying to “change society’s thinking” so people in Saskatchewan will not get behind the wheel of a car after drinking.

“This won’t stop drinking and driving completely,” he added, “but it’s a good, positive, solid step.”

Source: The Star Phoenix


Last updated on: 2016-11-02 | Link to this post