Canada Safety Council Questions DUI Law Proposal

The Canada Safety Council said April 18 it is concerned that changes to the Criminal Code being proposed by the federal government may slow the improvement being made against drunken driving. Bill C-376, set for final debate on April 30, proposes a new summary conviction offense under the Criminal Code for drivers with blood-alcohol levels above 50 mg in 100 milliliters of blood; they are currently dealt with under provincial and territorial traffic codes. The person charged would get a ticket and have the option of paying a fine, avoiding a court appearance but also admitting guilt and thus having a criminal record, CSC says. The criminal record would be cleared after two years provided there are no further offenses.

"We know the proposed changes are well-intentioned," CSC President Jack Smith said. "But they ignore a well-established national strategy with widespread support. [Legislators] must seriously assess the need to take such a novel and unproven approach, as well as the ripple effect of implementing it. From a safety standpoint, we believe it would be counterproductive."

The council says there's no evidence this change would be more effective than the measures now being used, and it believes lower-BAC drivers are more effectively dealt with outside the Criminal Code. Police enforcement will slow down because it takes longer to file a criminal charge than a traffic violation or administrative suspension. Costs may go up, and the federal government could jeopardize the high level of co-operation now in effect. The Traffic Injury Research Foundation has reported motor vehicle deaths on public roadways involving a drinking driver dropped from 1,296 in 1995 to 815 in 2004, according to the council.

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