August 9, 2001
(Government Services and Lands)
Government assessing report by Impaired Driving Committee
The province's Department of Government Services and Lands is reviewing recommendations for action by the Impaired Driving Committee.
Minister Walter Noel says: "The committee was established in January 2000 to review existing penalties for management of persons convicted of alcohol-related driving offences. It includes representatives from law enforcement agencies, the Department of Health and Community Services, Department of Government Services and Lands, Department of Justice, the Newfoundland and Labrador Safety Council and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
"Last March the committee completed Part 1 of a discussion paper proposing options for action. This report has been under consideration pending an examination of the feasibility of ignition interlock systems to be addressed in Part 2. Unfortunately, that has not been submitted to date."
The committee has proposed that current practices in dealing with impaired driving offenders be strengthened through the increase of current suspension periods and the introduction of new ones; institution of a vehicle seizure and impoundment program; review of the mandatory alcohol education program; and establishing a Driver Control Board to hear appeals.
The committee's recommendations concerning suspensions include the following:
Increase the mandatory suspension periods for those convicted of second or third offences;
Introduce a 10-year suspension for any driver convicted of impaired driving causing bodily harm;
Introduce a lifetime suspension for a fourth conviction on impaired driving or for a conviction of impaired driving causing death.
The committee recommends a vehicle seizure/impoundment program be implemented. Similar laws exist in eight other provinces giving law enforcement officers the authority to immediately seize and impound any vehicle driven by a driver whose licence has been suspended.
As well, the committee recommends that Newfoundland and Labrador introduce a 90-day roadside suspension, as have six other provinces. Such a program empowers the administrative suspension for 90 days of any driver with a BAC over .08, or who refuses a breath test if criminal charges have been laid. This administrative suspension, under the province's Highway Traffic Act, would be independent of the Criminal Code of Canada processes.
The analysis of adopting an ignition interlock program is not yet complete, as the Canadian suppliers of this system are reviewing its feasibility within Newfoundland and Labrador. Once their review is complete and shared with the committee, further recommendations may result.
Minister Noel said: "We have to do everything reasonable to reduce vehicle accidents, personal injuries and damage and insurance costs. Our officials are assessing these and other proposed initiatives. Reducing impaired driving is a priority. We intend to propose any measures we are convinced would be appropriate. But these are serious and complicated issues, as demonstrated by the diversity of legislation across the country, and the extent to which the Mothers Against Drunk Driving representative differed with other committee members in recommending action. Our officials are assessing the options suggested and should be in a position to make recommendations soon. However, most options for action would require legislative change which cannot be pursued until the legislature opens."
Carolyn Burggraaf, Motor Registration Division, (709) 729-4953
Simon N. Lono, Public Relations Specialist, (709) 729-4860.
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