Aug 30, 2013 - REPORT ON DRINKING AND DRIVING DOESN'T GO FAR ENOUGH, SOME SAY


The national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada says she’s glad to see Saskatchewan’s legislature making any efforts to address the impaired driving problem in the province, but thinks some of the recommendations of the Traffic Safety Committee don’t go far enough.

“We still would like to see further movement,” Denise Dubyk said Friday after the all-party committee — formed earlier this year to look at traffic safety issues — filed its final report.

MADD wanted to see zero drinking and driving tolerance up to age 21; the report recommends setting the age at 19. And Dubyk says including vehicle impoundment with licence suspensions “makes a huge difference.”

That’s something the committee didn’t recommend for drivers caught with blood alcohol content readings .05 and above, but below .08 — despite legislation of that nature that has resulted in statistical success in B.C. and Alberta in recent years.

Imitating those provinces was the subject of a minority submission to the report by the NDP Opposition members who sat on the committee.

Danielle Chartier, NDP MLA and the committee’s deputy chair, told reporters the Sask. Party government members have “chosen to ignore important evidence presented by policy experts in the field of traffic safety and with that will be putting Saskatchewan lives at risk.”

“It’s a huge deterrent,” she said of impoundment, noting MADD and others recommended it.

“Suspensions are easy to live with. Many people drive while suspended. In fact, we heard up to 70 per cent of people will drive while suspended. It’s much harder to hide a three-day vehicle impoundment from your spouse or your parents than a short-term licence suspension.”

A three-day licence suspension is what the committee is recommending for those blowing between .04 and .08 for the first time, along with having to take a compulsory course — sanctions increased from the current possibility of a 24-hour roadside suspension.

Half of the 26 recommendations in the report concern impaired driving, including a variety of stiffened penalties for drinking and driving.

“We have been a laggard when it comes to impaired driving legislation and our death-rate statistics show that,” Chartier said.

“The committee has made some recommendations which will have small effects and undoubtedly will reduce our abysmal record. For more than 10 years, we have had the worst impaired driving death rate in Canada and we’re still more than three times the Canadian average. In Canada, that death rate has dropped by 20 per cent cent in the last decade; we’ve gone up.”

The province doesn’t need “little bits and pieces,” but rather to follow the lead of other jurisdictions where policies have worked, Chartier added.

Justin Higginbotham, whose sister Tarrah was killed at the age of 21 in a collision caused by a chronic drunk driver in 2004, says the report’s recommendations are “a step in the right direction,” but also thinks the recommendations could have gone further — and action happened sooner.

“I understand no change is going to happen overnight, but my biggest problem during Tarrah’s situation was, ‘Why isn’t anybody looking into this?’ This whole situation is still very frustrating to me,” he said Friday.

But he is pleased by report recommendations for increased numbers of officers on the roads enforcing the laws, and for increased public awareness efforts, particularly targeting young drivers.

Committee chair MLA and legislative secretary Darryl Hickie told reporters Friday that if the government chooses to enact the recommendations, he thinks three of the changes will be particularly noticeable to citizens.

Those highlights are the increased administrative sanctions for offences, the accompanying awareness effects of publicizing the new penalties and changes to close loopholes in the wording of the law banning the use of mobile phones and other hand-held devices behind the wheel, Hickie said.

“If you choose not to do things wrong and you abide by the law, none of these impact you whatsoever,” he added.

Hickie admitted the proposed changes are “incremental,” but, when asked about the minority opinion and MADD’s advice, said the committee’s recommendations would nonetheless represent a “good start” given that Saskatchewan’s rules are overdue for an update.

Taken as a “suite,” the proposals would give law enforcement more tools and encourage collaboration among government divisions, while increasing public awareness, Hickie continued.

In addition to those around drinking and driving and distracted driving, the report’s recommendations also include suggestions for work that could lead to addressing traffic concerns regarding excessive speed — such as an expanded photo radar pilot project — intersection safety and wildlife collisions.

Source: Regina Leader Post

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Last updated on: 2013-09-04 | Link to this post