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Commentary: New impaired driving law welcome

New legislation came into effect Dec. 1

Although the Christmas season promises to be scaled back a bit in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people will be still be out and about, taking part in permitted recreational and shopping activities.

And as in past years, the busy times means lots of traffic on the roads and highways, including in this region.

Unfortunately, all that travel comes with the ever-present danger of impaired drivers, that very small portion of the population who still choose to discard the safety and wellbeing of others by getting behind the wheel when they are drunk and stoned.

Hopefully a ground-breaking, new anti-impaired driving law that has come into effect in Alberta this month will help curb the danger – and make sure violators, and particularly repeat offenders, pay a heavy price for their crimes.

Under the new Provincial Administrative Penalties Act, impaired drivers now face fines of up to $2,000, vehicle seizure of up to 30 days, mandatory education programs and mandatory ignition interlock for repeat offenders.

The law also allows first-time offenders to have their cases handled through the SafeRoads adjudication branch, freeing up court time for repeat offenders.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) calls the new legislation a good step forward.

“These programs will save lives,” said MADD Canada chief executive offer Andrew Murie. “These measures deliver strong, immediate penalties and sanctions to those individuals who continue to disregard the law and put lives in danger by driving impaired. They will reduce impaired driving and save lives.”

Dale McFee, president of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police, says the new legislation will allow officers to focus on reducing crime and victimization.

“This proven system of addressing impaired driving will reduce the time our officers and the courts must commit to dealing with these serious offences while still holding impaired drivers accountable,” said McFee.

This new legislation is a welcome and worthwhile tool in the fight against impaired driving.

Dan Singleton is an editor with The Albertan.