Last weekend the OPP laid 104 impaired driving charges. It’s time for Ottawa to toughen legislation to deter people from driving after they’ve been drinking or doing drugs.


When Marco Muzzo was sentenced in to 10 years in prison for impaired driving last March, you would have thought drivers would get the message: Don’t drink or do drugs and drive.

More to the tragic point, you would have thought the message delivered by the mother, whose three young children he killed along with her father, would have driven it home if their own self-interest didn’t.

“When you choose to drink and drive, you’re choosing to kill someone else’s babies,” Jennifer Neville-Lake said.

But that’s clearly not the case.

Last weekend, as they launched their annual holiday R.I.D.E. program, Ontario Provincial Police laid an astonishing 104 impaired driving charges.

And in York Region, where the deadly Muzzo crash occurred, the number of impaired driving charges was actually up significantly this year to more than 1,400 by mid-November, compared to 1,255 in all of 2015.

It has to stop. But it will clearly take more aggressive drinking and driving rules and enforcement to get the message across. Appeals to altruism aren’t working.

Indeed, Canada currently has the sorry distinction of ranking highest among wealthy countries for road deaths related to alcohol-impaired driving. It’s a factor in 34 per cent of motor fatalities here, compared to an average of 19 per cent elsewhere.

(It’s worth noting that impaired driving isn’t even the biggest problem. Distracted driving now kills twice as many people as impaired driving.)

And though the numbers of impaired driving charges for drugs and alcohol have dropped slightly in some parts of the GTA, they remain stubbornly high across the board and have risen in others.

By Nov. 28, for example, Toronto Police had laid 1,241 impaired driving charges, up from 1,218 in all of 2015.

Even slight declines in impaired driving charges by Peel Police and the OPP this year may not be good news. Andrew Murie, CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), believes declines represent a lack of enforcement rather than increased compliance with the law. “I’d have no problems with what Ontario is doing on criminal and licence suspensions if the death rate was falling with it,” he says. “And it’s not.”

But enforcement is difficult. Under current federal legislation police can pull drivers over and screen them for drugs and alcohol only if they have “reasonable grounds,” something studies indicate officers have trouble assessing. As a result, research indicates many Canadians continue to drink and drive believing there’s little chance they’ll be caught.

That could change if Ottawa introduces so-called “mandatory screening,” which MADD says is the “single most effective impaired driving countermeasure.” And so it should.

In the meantime, last weekend’s 104 arrests by the OPP should send out a “seasonal greeting” that impaired drivers will be caught. Sadly, it’s apparent that self-interest is the only reliable deterrent.

Source: The Star


Last updated on: 2016-12-27 | Link to this post