Every day, impaired driving kills four Canadians and injures countless more. But the impacts don't stop there. Impaired driving in Ontario and nationwide has far-reaching effects on individuals, communities, and key social systems.
Keep reading now to get the facts every Canadian motorist needs on impaired driving, its consequences, and what to do if you are cited for it.
One of the problems associated with impaired driving in Canada is that many drivers are unclear as to what exactly qualifies as impairment. Legally, impairment can refer to the use of drugs or alcohol that impact a motorist's ability to operate a vehicle safely.
The most common form of impaired driving is operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. While any amount of alcohol may impact a motorist's ability to drive safely, the legal limit for BAC in Canada is 0.08. Once drivers reach this blood alcohol level in Ontario, operating a vehicle becomes a criminal offense.
The criminal code of Canada impaired driving penalties also allow for charges against drivers with BACs between 0.05 and 0.08.
Many drivers are of the school of thought that impaired driving relates only to alcohol consumption. It also covers operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs. Under new impaired driving laws Canada, motorists can also face charges for driving under the influence of marijuana if they have two or more nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood in their system.
Importantly, impairment can also result from the use of prescription medication. Drivers are responsible for understanding the side-effects of their medications and choosing not to drive when a medication impairs their ability to operate a vehicle safely.
Thanks to COVID-19, Canadian roadways are carrying fewer drivers than normal. Despite this drop in traffic, there has been an upswing in impaired driving.
This change is most commonly attributed to a combination of factors including:
At the same time that impaired driving is on the rise, the legal system's ability to handle cases in a timely manner has plummeted. By law, motorists charged with impaired driving must have their day in court within 18 months. If they do not, authorities must drop the charges.
But pandemic and lock-down conditions limit the court's ability to process charges of every kind. This slow-down prevents authorities from pursuing all of the motorists cited for drinking and driving. As a result, many prosecutors are choosing to reduce DUI charges to careless driving citations.
Careless driving carries much lower penalties but can be processed more quickly. While this is not ideal, it does allow authorities to hold motorists accountable in some way until they are able to resume full operations and keep up with the more serious charges.
While people often use "impaired driving" and "DUI" interchangeably, they are not in fact the same. DUI is a form of impaired driving, but only one of several possible types.
DUI refers specifically to alcohol impairment. It does not cover the other categories of legal, illegal, or prescription drug impairment.
Police test for DUI using either a roadside field sobriety test or breathalyzer testing. Refusing to comply with an officer's demand for a test is an offense in its own right.
Officers may detain drivers found to be impaired or require motorists to accompany them to a police station for testing. How long officers can detain a driver depends on the results of the test.
Police may test for drug impairment using a variety of approved screening devices or evaluations. Often they administer these at police stations. Motorists may not refuse to accompany officers to a station for such tests.
As with DUI in Ontario, officers can detain motorists for drug testing. Whether they can continue to detain someone post-testing depends on the results of the tests, the motorist's state, and the motorist's cooperation or lack thereof with testing procedures.
Marijuana is legal in Canada. This can lead to misconceptions on the part of motorists about its use.
Motorists may not operate a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. This is unsafe and prohibited by law.
Alarmed by drunk driving statistics, the government passed new laws around impaired driving in December of 2018. These laws:
Critically, Canadian law enforces a Zero Tolerance policy for new drivers. Any motorist with a G1 or G2 license may not use any drugs or alcohol when driving.
Drivers with these types of licenses will face steep penalties if police find them to have even minute traces of drugs or alcohol in their systems.
All motorists can face a range of penalties if caught driving while impaired. These include:
There is no single answer to the common question "how much does a DUI cost?" Actual costs vary depending on:
With that said, between fees, fines, and other costs, it is not uncommon for motorists to end up paying out several thousands of dollars for a single DUI charge. With each progressive offense, costs go up.
Importantly, motorists face the same penalties for impaired driving whether they are on public roadways or private property. Canadian law does not differentiate between the two.
It also does not differentiate between vehicle types. Even individuals operating small motorized vehicles like lawn mowers can fall afoul of the law if they are over the blood alcohol limit in Ontario.
On their first alcohol or drug impaired driving offense, drivers face:
During first and subsequent offenses, motorists may face additional fees, fines, and penalties associated with:
On their second alcohol or drug impaired driving offense, drivers face:
Motorists may face additional fees, fines, and penalties associated with related charges and drivers' education program enrollment.
On their third alcohol or drug impaired driving offense, drivers face:
Motorists may face substantial additional fees, fines, and penalties associated with:
Motorists who refuse an officer's demand to test them for impairment will face an additional:
All impaired driving charges remain on a motorist's record for three years. Convictions remain on a driver's record for 10 years.
Impaired driving charges can affect motorists' insurance premiums for as long as six years, even if they do not result in a conviction. Motorists can pay up to five times more for insurance after a DUI charge. Repeat offenders may struggle to find anyone willing to insure them at all.
It is not possible to hide DUIs from an insurer. Moreover, drivers should be aware that if they are charged with a DUI in conjunction with an accident, their insurer is not required to cover the costs of the accident.
Impaired driving in Ontario can have long-lasting impacts on a driver's life. Understanding the laws associated with impaired driving can protect you and your family from unwanted costs and consequences. Learn more about safe driving and Canadian laws around operating a vehicle by exploring more of our blog today.