Alberta’s New Impaired Driving Laws

The Government of Alberta recently passed an act to reduce cannabis- and alcohol-impaired driving, which will come into force on April 9, 2018.

The act is designed to deter impaired driving, reduce collisions, and ultimately save lives. This is particularly important given that, between 2006 and 2015, there were 1,001 traffic fatalities and over 15,000 injuries in Alberta, as a result of alcohol- or drug-impaired driving.

Government officials believe that the act provides Alberta with the necessary framework to continue to deter and deal with impaired driving in the province. The following is a summary of the four new impaired driving laws:

1. Suspensions—Under the new rules, any driver found to be impaired by drugs or alcohol will receive a 90-day licence suspension. The act defines impairment as follows:

  1. Drivers found to have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more
  2. Drivers found to be impaired by drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs
  3. Drivers who fail or refuse to a breath or blood sample

Following the suspension, drivers are required to participate in a one-year ignition interlock program. Should the driver choose not to participate in this program, their licence suspension will remain in place for a full-year term.

2. Provincial Sanctions—The act outlines the provincial sanctions. This means that, in addition to any provincial consequences, drivers are subject to any criminal charges and penalties imposed by the court system.

3. Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Program—GDL drivers found with any amount of alcohol, cannabis, illegal drugs or a combination of these substances are subject to a 30-day licence suspension, seven-day vehicle seizure and a lengthened term in the GDL program. This represents a zero tolerance policy for GDL drivers.

4. Alberta Transportation Safety Board Procedural Updates—In an effort to streamline their processes, new limits will be imposed on the number of reconsiderations the Alberta Transportation Safety Board is required to hear in the absence of new evidence. It should be noted that drivers have the right to an immediate second breath or blood test to confirm their blood alcohol or drug concentration. Drivers may use this data to appeal sanctions to the board.

Albertans can expect future changes to the act as the province plans to enforce upcoming revisions to the federal impaired driving charges found in the Criminal Code of Canada. Among these upcoming revisions, the government will propose blood drug concentration limits for cannabis.

The Government of Alberta will be ready to enforce criminal-level provincial sanctions for drug offences once the federal legislation receives royal assent.

To learn more about the act, click here.