Kim and Jaymie-Lyne Hancock, mother and sister of 18-year-old Dean (DJ) Hancock, who was killed by a drunk driver, answer questions at Lasalle Secondary School following a presentation on May 30, 2016. Kim Hancock says she welcomes new rules around drinking and driving.

Police and families victimized by drunk drivers are hoping new, steeper penalties and greater leeway in obtaining breath samples will help reduce what remains a huge problem on area roads.

“Speaking as a mom who lost a son, for me I think it’s great, and should have been done a long time ago,” said Kim Hancock, whose child DJ was killed by an intoxicated driver four years ago on the southwest bypass.

In the past, officers needed to have a reasonable suspicion that a driver had been drinking to administer a roadside breath test. As of Tuesday, when part of Bill C-46 came into effect, they can randomly screen any driver for potential inebriation.

“A lot of people are looking at this as giving up their rights, or think police are going to pick on you, but I think they are going to use good judgment,” said Hancock. “They’re not going to do it to every car they pull over.”

Drivers who are asked to provide samples are required to do so, however, the OPP stressed in a release.

“It is mandatory for them to comply with this demand and those who do not can be charged with failing or refusing to provide a breath sample,” the provincial force stated.

Under the new legislation, drivers impaired by alcohol will also face higher mandatory minimum fines and some higher maximum penalties, including significant jail time for second and third offences.

That, too, is good news to Hancock, who feels her son’s death could have been prevented had Walter Carter, the man found criminally responsible, been treated more harshly for an earlier offence.

“He was charged in January (with impaired driving) and basically nothing really came of it,” she said. “And then in August he killed my son. If they would have got him in January, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. So any stiffer penalties are great.”

Sgt. Tim Burtt, with the traffic management unit of Greater Sudbury Police, said he’s optimistic the new rules will have a deterrent effect, in particular the threat of a mandatory roadside screening test.

“That part of the legislation I think is going to be a boon to us, for picking out those ones that aren’t detectable,” he said. “It’s an added element for police, an extra tool in the toolbox that may assist us.”

Burtt noted other countries have had success with random screening and he’s hopeful the same will be the case in our area.

“Impaireds go down because people now think police are going to ask for my sample at any time,” he said. “I can’t hide that smell anymore; I can’t hide my behaviour or try to.”

Hancock agrees, noting she’s heard people talk in the past about lighting a cigar to mask alcohol on their breath, or taking other steps to avoid detection.

And while some might feel it’s an intrusion on their rights or privacy to be randomly asked to provide a breath sample, Hancock argues the broader good more than justifies a minor inconvenience.

“It’s not hurting you to give a breath test,” she reasoned. “If you have nothing to hide, don’t worry about it. But if they save one person, I think it’s worth it.”

Hancock said she might have more sympathy for critics of the new legislation had instances of drunk driving gone down, but if anything they seem to be on the rise.

“I’ve worked really hard the last four years trying to get the word out, and then I hear the numbers are going up,” she said. “People are still not getting the message.”

Over the first six RIDE checks held by Greater Sudbury Police this festive season, six people were charged with impaired driving, noted Sgt. Burtt. That’s double the number of last year for the same time frame.

Meanwhile the overall number of impaired charges between Nov. 14 and Dec. 12 — this would include the charges laid through patrol and collision investigations, as well as RIDE checks — were also up, from 11 last year to 13 this year.

Two people died as a result of impaired driving in 2018, said Burtt, although neither fatality was on a road. “One was alcohol and one was drugs, and both were waterway fatalities — one frozen, one not frozen.”

There was a road fatality attributed to alcohol in 2017, however, that is before the courts now, with a driver set to be sentenced this week, noted Burtt.

The incident occurred in Capreol and involved two young men. The passenger, 22, died in the crash.

The picture for the OPP has not been much brighter when it comes to impaired driving.

The provincial force has laid more than 7,300 impaired charges across Ontario this year, and alcohol or drugs were determined to be a factor in the deaths of 41 people on OPP-patrolled roads.

Burtt hopes the harsher penalties and broader application of breath tests will make a difference.

“I would hope to go through a year without seeing a traffic fatality because of alcohol, or anything at all,” he said. “But we still see them, because people will always push that little bit. Let’s just hope the message gets out there — don’t drink and drive; don’t drive when you’re high; don’t text. We don’t want to see somebody’s life get taken.”

New minimum penalties for impaired driving:

– First offence with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 80-119: $1,000 fine

– First offence with a BAC of 120-159: $1,500 fine

– First offence with a BAC of 160 or more: $2,000 fine

– First offence of refusal to be tested: $2,000 fine

– Second offence: 30 days jail

– Third and subsequent offences: 120 days jail

Source: The Sudbury Star



Last updated on: 2019-04-22 | Link to this post