While most, if not all, law-abiding Albertans are probably in favour of more being done to reduce drunk driving in the province – and the injuries and deaths that go along with it – whether new alcohol limits coming into effect September 1 are the answer remains anyone's guess.
Yet with Alberta's roads and highways continuing to be littered with smashed vehicle and broken lives thanks to impaired drivers, something obviously needs to be done.
Introduced just before the last provincial election, the new limits increase administrative suspensions and vehicle seizure times for anyone caught driving with a blood alcohol level greater than 0.05.
Under the legislation, a first offence can result in a three-day licence suspension; a second offence, a 15-day licence suspension, a seven-day vehicle seizure and a mandatory ‘planning ahead' course; and a third offence, a 30-day licence suspension, a seven-day vehicle seizure and a mandatory ‘impact' course.
Premier Redford has said the new rules could help reduce crashes caused by drivers being made less attentive by the presence of alcohol in their blood.
She also says Alberta is not breaking new ground with the new rule, noting that all other provinces, except Quebec, already impose some sanctions on drivers with blood alcohol levels greater than 0.05 mg per cent.
The Wildrose Opposition has been calling for the new legislation to be scrapped, saying targeting drivers with blood alcohol levels less than 0.08 mg per cent (the Criminal Code legal limit) won't save lives.
“We need to take serious action on drunk driving to protect Alberta families, not waste time and resources on a law that won't work,” says Wildrose transportation critic Shayne Saskiw.
Hiring more RCMP officers and increasing funding for checkstops would be a much better way of keeping drunks off the road, he says.
Bar owners says imposing the 0.05 limit will deter customers from visiting their establishments, causing a marked decline in the economic health of the hospitality industry as a result.
With more than 8,500 people injured in alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents in Alberta since 2006 – and more than 90 killed in such crashes last year alone – something obviously needs to be done to stop the carnage. Whether this new 0.05 rule is the answer remains to be seen.
With less than three months now left before the new rule comes into effect, the chances of the legislation being stopped now are certainly remote.
Nevertheless, once it comes into effect, this new rule should be very closely monitored to see if it does, in fact, have a positive impact. And if it proves ineffective in reducing crashes, it should be scrapped without delay.