Calgary police Chief Rick Hanson took aim at critics of the province’s tougher drunk driving laws Wednesday, saying those still debating its merits should focus on its goal of saving lives.

In the lead-up to the legislation taking effect Sept. 1, various opponents raised concerns about the law infringing on civil liberties and penalizing social drinkers.

But Hanson said those concerns shouldn’t overshadow the aim of the legislation, which is ridding the streets of people who choose to drive drunk.

“I watched with great interest those that could not see the value in the administrative licence suspensions,” he told reporters.

“Those folks, I think, should be spending more time talking to victims of impaired driving, those that have had to bury somebody because an individual chose to get behind the wheel of a car and made a decision that resulted in the loss of life.”

Hanson made his comments at an event marking the 25th anniversary of the Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s red ribbon campaign, in which red ribbon pins are worn to show a commitment to sober driving.

MADD Canada president Denise Dubyk had said this legislation and other efforts to curb drunk driving have helped spread the message against drunk driving. Recent initiatives include a University of Calgary club called Save An Innocent Life (SAIL) founded by business student Faryal Shah, who was spurred into action after her best friend, Arshdeep Brar, was killed by a drunk driver in January.

Under the new legislation, first-time offenders who have a blood-alcohol level of 0.05 to 0.08 have their vehicles seized and licences suspended for three days.

For first-time offenders who blow over 0.08, their vehicles are seized for three days and their licences are suspended until their charges are dealt with.

Penalties increase following each subsequent offence.

According to figures from the Calgary Police Service, from Sept. 1 to 30, city police issued 68 three-day suspensions for motorists who provided blood-alcohol levels between 0.05 and 0.08.

Officers issued another 40 24-hour suspensions for other impairments. In total, officers handed out 108 impaired driving suspensions, down from 237 issued during the same time last year.

The drop in numbers indicates people are starting to get the message, Hanson said.

“The reality is, anything that can be done that causes the people to not make that decision, anything that reduces the likelihood of impaired drivers killing innocent victims is something that has to be supported,” he added.

Wildrose Justice critic Shayne Saskiw said his party opposed the 0.05 legislation because it believes police officers enforcing the law are being diverted away from focusing on drunk drivers — those found to be over the 0.08 limit.

He said the Wildrose is committed to helping get drunk drivers off the road.

“I have talked to victims and we very much have the deepest of sympathy for those folks but ... the way to get drunk drivers off the road to prevent those types of tragedies from happening is more Checkstops and more front-line police officers.”

Kelly Ernst, board member of the Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association, agreed that police should be focusing on those blowing “way beyond” 0.08.

“If you really want to get at the problem, why is there no effort to deal with those people who are really the problem as opposed to people having a glass of wine over dinner?”

Ernst said he also takes issue with police seizing people’s property without due process.

Source: The Calgary Herald


Last updated on: 2012-11-10 | Link to this post