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September 30, 2010

New Impaired and Distracted Driving Laws Come into Force

Legislative changes made to the Highway Traffic Act to address safety on the province’s highways will be proclaimed tomorrow (Friday, October 1).

"Last spring, I was proud to stand in the House of Assembly and make significant changes which will help curb dangerous driving habits," said the Honourable Kevin O’Brien, Minister of Government Services. "Stopping a vehicle is the only method of checking a driver's licence and insurance, the mechanical fitness of a vehicle or whether the driver is impaired. The mechanical fitness of the vehicle, the possession of a valid driver's licence and proper insurance, and the sobriety of the driver are prerequisites to the safe operation of a motor vehicle. By allowing the police to engage in traffic safety stops we hope to eradicate the terrible toll of highway accidents caused by impaired drivers and those drivers who put the public's safety at risk by driving without a driver's licence or insurance or in a vehicle that is mechanically unfit."

Legislative changes that will be proclaimed as of October 1, 2010 are:

  • Authorizing police to use traffic safety stops as a means of determining whether drivers are impaired, driving while suspended or driving without insurance, among other serious offences;
  • Increasing the current 24-hour suspension to a minimum of seven days (14 days for a repeat offence) for drivers with a blood alcohol level of greater than 50 mgs;
  • Reducing the allowable blood alcohol level to 0.0 per cent from the current .05 per cent, for drivers accompanying a novice driver; and,
  • Prohibiting the use of electronic devices such as cell phones, Blackberries and iPhones to send or read text messages, or programming GPS devices while the vehicle is in motion, which can distract drivers from driving safely.

Drivers convicted of using an electronic device will be subject to a minimum fine of $100, with a maximum fine of $400, and the accumulation of four demerit points. These penalties correspond with those administered for cell phone usage while driving. The legislation applies to all drivers – the only exceptions being an emergency call and calls made by police, ambulance and fire vehicles in the course of their duties.

Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia now have similar legislation, banning not only cell phones but also the use of additional and newer electronic devices.

Other recent legislative changes made to the Highway Traffic Act included an increase to the fines for speeding in school zones. These came into effect on September 1. For further information on these changes, please visit www.releases.gov.nl.ca/releases/2010/gs/0831n01.htm

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Media contact:
Vanessa Colman-Sadd
Director of Communications
Department of Government Services
709-729-4860, 682-6593
vanessacolmansadd@gov.nl.ca

2010 09 30                                                     9:30 a.m.


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