In 2014, Saskatchewan had 620 police-reported impaired driving offences per 100,000 people. The national average was 210 per 100,000.

Grieving families of people killed by drunk drivers say proposed changes to impaired driving laws in Saskatchewan are a good first step.

The changes include a three-day vehicle seizure for drivers who are charged for the first time with having a blood-alcohol content over .04 and a zero-tolerance policy will be extended to all drivers under the age of 21, up from the current age of 19.

The new law would also extend mandatory ignition interlock for repeat drunk drivers and apply to those who refuse to provide a breath sample.

“That’s a step, I think, a real positive step to zero tolerance,” said Allan Kerpan, whose 25-year-old daughter Danille was killed by a drunk driver in 2014.

“I mean we’re a long ways from zero tolerance yet, but we’re trying to change society’s thinking so that everybody in Saskatchewan will not drink — period — and drive. I think that’s the end goal, but we’re still a ways away.”

Saskatchewan has the worst drunk driving rate of all the provinces.

In 2014, Saskatchewan had 620 police-reported impaired driving offences per 100,000 people. The national average was 210 per 100,000.

Less than two weeks ago, former Saskatchewan deputy premier Don McMorris apologized in the legislature for impaired driving. In August, McMorris was driving a government car when he was pulled over by police on the Trans-Canada Highway east of Regina.

Court heard he had nearly 2 ½ times the legal amount of alcohol in his system. He pleaded guilty to having a blood-alcohol level over .08, was fined $1,820 and lost his licence for a year.

Kerpan says he believes there’s a cultural problem, especially in rural Saskatchewan.

“I can show you in our community, three or four people that drink and drive every day, and I’m pretty sure that any other community will show you and tell you the exact same thing.”

Louis Van de Vorst’s son, Jordan, Jordan’s wife Chanda, their 5-year-old daughter Kamryn and her two-year-old brother Miguire were killed by a drunk driver in Saskatoon in January.

Van Vorst says he likes the increased penalties and better education measures announced Monday.

“I’ve always said that it’s more than just enforcement. It has to get to society, it has to get people realizing that impaired driving is not an acceptable norm,” Van de Vorst said Monday at the legislature in Regina.

Regina Police Chief Evan Bray says officers see drunk driving on a daily basis and “enough’s enough.”

Bray says officers are frustrated when they see repeat offenders and have long said it would be good to seize a vehicle if someone’s blood alcohol level is over .04, but under .08.

“That right there is an operational change that makes a significant difference and it sends a message to people that are not thinking before they get behind the wheel after they’ve had a drink,” Bray said at the legislature in Regina.

The changes will take effect Jan. 1, if approved by the legislature.

Saskatchewan Government Insurance is also ponying up $500,000 for more police checkstops targeting impaired driving and $800,000 for more automated licence plate readers in police cars to help officers catch disqualified drivers.

Kerpan says the licence plate reader could be a game changer.

“Since we lost Danille two years ago, it’s been real bothersome to me to read in the media about people who are repeat offenders. With this licence plate reading technology, we’ll take some of those people off the road and that’s a really good, positive step,” said Kerpan.

Joe Hargrave, minister responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance, says the province may take further action and is looking at the B.C. model.

British Columbia has what is called a 90-day immediate roadside prohibition. Police can seize someone’s licence for 90 days and their vehicle will be impounded for 30 days if their blood alcohol level is more than .08 or if they refuse to provide a breath sample.

“This is just the first step. We’re not done looking at that, but we want to make sure we get it all right,” said Hargrave.

Source: The Star


Last updated on: 2016-12-19 | Link to this post