Impaired deaths down in B.C.

B.C.'s tough new impaired driving penalties have helped reduce deaths by 40 per cent in the first year.

Laurel Middelaer (front left) joins Premier Christy Clark

VICTORIA – B.C.’s tough new impaired driving penalties have helped reduce deaths by 40 per cent in the first year since they came into effect, according to preliminary figures released by the provincial government Wednesday.

There were 68 alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths across B.C. in the 12 months that ended Sept. 30, compared with 113 deaths in the previous 12 months.

Premier Christy Clark and Public Safety Minister Shirley Bond marked the occasion with a ceremony in front of the legislature, with police officers and Laurel Middelaer, whose four-year-old daughter Alexa was struck and killed by an impaired driver in Delta in 2008.

Clark announced a $40,000 contribution to establish “Alexa’s Bus,” a mobile road safety unit that will focus on impaired driving education and enforcement.

Clark said the statistics validate a controversial decision by the government to implement Canada’s toughest roadside penalties for blood alcohol readings as low as 0.05 per cent.

A blood alcohol reading in the “warn” range between 0.05 and 0.08 per cent can result in a three-day driving ban, a $200 “administrative penalty” and another $250 fee to have a driver’s licence reinstated. Drivers may also have their car impounded for three days and be billed for towing and storage.

For roadside readings of 0.08 per cent or higher, police have the option of imposing a 90-day driving ban, a $500 fine and impounding the vehicle for 30 days. That suspension can cost a driver $3,750, including $700 for towing and storage and $1,420 to take a mandatory “responsible driver” course.

“For the first time in a decade, we’ve sen a real drop in the deaths associated with impaired driving, and 45 more people made it home safe in the past year as a result,” Bond said.

“Together with public education, prevention programs and criminal sanctions, the roadside penalties will continue to play a role in helping to ensure the success seen over the past year becomes a life-saving trend over the longer term.”

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