The government of Saskatchewan will be cracking down on impaired drivers in the new year.
The province introduced changes to legislation on Monday that bring in harsher penalties for people who choose to drink and drive.
One of the amendments made to The Traffic Safety Act adds a three-day vehicle seizure for experienced drivers who are charged for the first time with having a blood alcohol content over .04.
A zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol is also being brought in for drivers 21 and under, and for all new drivers. If caught with either substance in their system drivers will face a 60-day licence suspension.
The province is also toughening up its ignition interlock system. A mandatory ignition interlock system will be imposed on drivers who register a blood alcohol level over .16 or refuse to provide a breath sample.
A driver’s first offence will result in an ignition interlock system for two years, a second offence will be five years, and third and subsequent offence will be 10 years.
The changes are being introduced less than a month after Minister Responsible for SGI Joe Hargrave, and Justice Minister Gord Wyant sat down with representatives from MADD Saskatchewan.
The organization presented seven recommendations on impaired driving to the government after former minister Don McMorris’ impaired driving charges and recent tragedies in Saskatchewan.
“I put the push on it, and the premier has given his commitment and his energies as well, making sure that we get this moved ahead as quickly as possible,” said Hargrave.
“The ministers should be commended for what they’ve done here, this is a very strong start and it sends a very serious message to those who would continue with this sort of behaviour. And the message is clear, that if you’re going to drink and drive in this province the cost is going to be severe,” said Wendell Waldron of MADD Saskatchewan.
Four Saskatchewan families who have lost loved ones sat quietly while the changes were introduced. They call the amendments to legislation a step in the right direction.
Danille Kerpan was killed on October 10, 2014 when a drunk driver hit her car head on. Her father, Allen Kerpan thinks the tougher laws are just half the solution to a big problem.
“It’s a cultural thing. It’s sort of rural, it’s old boys club, it’s there. If you talk to the RCMP or the police groups they’ll tell you the same thing,” said Kerpan.
Along with the changes to legislation, the province will be providing additional funding to enforcement initiatives around Saskatchewan.
$500,000 will go to law enforcement agencies to increase check stops targeting impaired driving. $800,000 will be used to bring in 32 more automated licence plate readers, bringing Saskatchewan’s total to 47.
In addition to impaired driving, changes to cellphone legislation were introduced on Monday. The changes will prohibit drivers from holding, viewing, using or manipulating a cellphone while driving.
All of the changes are pending legislative approval, and if passed, would come into effect on January 1, 2017.