At this time of year police increase efforts to raise public awareness about road safety, with a particular focus on reducing impaired driving. You’ll likely see more police checkpoints across the province. A key message of course is don’t drink, or take drugs, and drive.

The number of alcohol or drug impaired driving incidents in Canada decreased in 2015. Police reported about 72,000 impaired driving incidents Canada-wide, down from about 74,500 in 2014. Most impaired driving incidents across the country involved alcohol, with about 2,800 involving drugs.  The number of drug impaired driving incidents increased from 2014 to 2015, but remained much lower than the number of alcohol related incidents, probably in part because it is easier to measure the level of alcohol impairment than it is drug impairment level.

In Nova Scotia police can give an on-the-spot roadside license suspension to drivers who get a 'warn' on a roadside screening test, or whose breath test shows a blood alcohol level between .05 and .08 (50 to 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood). 

Immediate roadside license suspensions under Nova Scotia’s Motor Vehicle Act are:

  • 7 days for a first suspension within 10 years;
  • 15 days for a second suspension within 10 years; and
  • 30 days for a third or subsequent suspension within 10 years.

Licensed learners or newly licensed drivers must have zero blood alcohol when driving, so face a 24-hour immediate roadside suspension and a significant fine if caught driving with any alcohol in their blood.

In addition to a roadside suspension, police may impound the driver’s vehicle. Any towing and storage fees must be paid by the person who picks up the vehicle from impound. Drivers who get a suspension also have to pay a license reinstatement fee.

Along with facing criminal charges, a driver who takes the breathalyzer and blows over .08, or who refuses to take the breathalyzer, will have their driver’s license suspended for 3 months, starting 7 days after the incident.  This 3 month administrative license suspension under the Motor Vehicle Act is on top of any driving prohibition imposed by the criminal court for an impaired driving conviction.

The above penalties are under the Motor Vehicle Act. 

There are of course other penalties under the Criminal Code.  Criminal penalties for impaired driving are the same across Canada, as the federal Criminal Code applies nationwide.  The most common impaired driving offences under the Criminal Code are:

  • impaired driving (impaired by alcohol or drugs);
  • driving over .08 (blood alcohol level more than 80 milligrams in 100 millilitres of blood);
  • refusal to do sobriety tests or give a breath or blood sample.

A conviction for any of these Criminal Code offences means a criminal record, at least 1 year’s loss of license (first offence), a high fine (minimum $1000), increased insurance premiums, and strict license reinstatement conditions.

Quite apart from penalties under the Motor Vehicle Act or Criminal Code, impaired driving has other serious potential costs, including financial losses, psychological trauma, physical injuries and loss of life.  We should all heed the message: don’t drink or take drugs and drive. Please drive safely!

For more information:

*Statistics Canada - Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2015

This article gives legal information, not legal advice.  If you need legal ADVICE you should contact a lawyer.

December 2016