Keep the joy in Christmas, don’t drive impaired

By MPP Bobbi Ann Brady

Christmas is a time of family, joy, and celebration. If alcohol is going to be part of your celebrations, make sure you have a plan to get home safely. 

What people may not know, is the police have some new tools at their disposal to make the roads safer, and hopefully prevent tragedy. I have been hearing reports of spot checks occurring in Haldimand and Norfolk where the driver of every vehicle that is pulled over is required to blow in the breathalyzer. Previously, police had to suspect a driver was impaired before asking for a breathalyzer test. That changed in 2018. This year is the first I heard mandatory breathalyzer being used locally and should make people think twice before getting behind the wheel after drinking.

Changes in the Canadian Criminal Code also include making it an offence being impaired within two hours of driving. For instance, if a person had several drinks close together immediately before driving a short distance, the alcohol may not have an opportunity to get absorbed into the person’s system and register on a breathalyzer. Changes will allow rechecking blood alcohol levels. These changes will also eliminate two of the common defences used by drunk drivers.

The new rules also apply to suspected drug-impaired driving. Officers can demand a roadside oral fluid sample and the have other options, including a blood sample.

On the topic of driving while impaired by marijuana, I want to clear up a few misconceptions. This type of impaired driving has been increasing since the legalization of marijuana. Studies have found that cannabis can reduce concentration and attention span, slows reaction time, and creates an altered perception of time and stance.

On further note, blood alcohol content of 0.05, which is under the legal limit, is illegal if there is a level of 2.5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood.

A sobering fact is 55 per cent of road crash deaths in Canada are related to drug and/or alcohol. Breaking this down further, 13 per cent are from alcohol alone, 25 per cent are solely from drugs and a combination of the two is a factor in 15 per cent of fatalities. This means drugs are a larger factor than alcohol. Statistics also say cannabis use while driving increases the risk of a fatal crash five times, and when combined with alcohol, increases the risk of death in a crash 40 times.

The evidence shows that impaired driving greatly increases the chances of death in the event of a collision. As of November, there were 39 deaths in Ontario related to impaired driving. That’s 39 families who won’t have a loved one coming home ever again. This is tragic any time of the year, but is especially bitter during the festive season, leaving a scar for life.

The simple solution is don’t drink and drive or drive while high. There are alternatives available, and while they may be a little inconvenient, they are a lot better than a poor decision that could cost your life or the life of someone else.

Bobbi Ann Brady is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk