Impaired Driving in Canada: Cost and Effect of a Conviction

By Jordan Tekenos-Levy (Aitken Robertson Professional Corporation)

 

            ‘Impaired Driving’ is the official vernacular in Ontario and constitutes the equivalent of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in the United States. Many people confuse this styling of terms as a result of American media and the high frequency of American news that is broadcasted in Canada. This paper serves to explain the definition of impaired driving, the costs associated with impaired driving, as well as other non-monetary implications of an impaired driving conviction.

 

            By virtue of S. 253(1)(a) of the Criminal Code of Canada, impaired driving in Canada encompasses “every one who operates a motor vehicle or vessel or operates or assists in the operation of an aircraft or of railway equipment or has the care or control of a motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railway equipment, whether it is in motion or not:

a)      while the person’s ability to operate the vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railway equipment is impaired by alcohol or a drug; or

b)      having consumed alcohol in such a quantity that the concentration in the person’s blood exceeds eighty milligrams of alcohol in one hundred milliliters of blood.”

 

This is to say that if you have consumed any kind of alcohol or drug and you are in control of any of the abovementioned types of motor vehicles, there is a high likelihood that you could be charged with impaired driving. The high likelihood is bolstered by the fact that it does not take much alcohol to exceed the eighty-milligram threshold. Though it will vary depending on the physiology of the individual in question (i.e. age, gender, weight, tolerance, and so on), one should always err on the side of caution when considering the consumption of alcohol. It is also important to note that one can be convicted of drug related impaired driving in instances of over-the-counter, prescription, or illegal drug use (MTO, 2015). To sum up, an impaired driving charge can arise where one has voluntarily consumed either drugs or alcohol (or a mix of both) to a point beyond the legally prescribed limit (.08 Blood Alcohol Concentration), whilst in control of one of the abovementioned vehicles (or a three hour retroactive reasonable belief by a police officer that one had been in control).

 

            The burden of monetary costs for impaired driving is not only borne by the convicted individual, but by the government as well. A statistical analysis from 1999-2010 by the group, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, shows that in the aforementioned years impaired car crashes totaled 2.4 million, which cost Canadians an estimated $246.1 Billion (MADD, 2013). In 2010 alone, impairment related crashes resulted in an estimated 1,082 fatalities, 63,821 injuries, and damage to 210,932 vehicles (MADD, 2013). Further, MADD (2013) estimates that there were 183,298 impaired crashes in 2010, which cost an estimated $20.62 billion. These numbers go to the fact that impaired driving is a common and recurrent problem within Canadian society, and they show that it is not only the offender who bears the vast monetary expenses as a result.

 

            The monetary cost of an impaired driving charge will certainly vary given the particular facts and circumstances of a case. Not only are there costs for being convicted of impaired driving, there are also costs for warnings. For example, as prescribed by the Ministry of Transportation Ontario (MTO) (2015), if your BAC tests in the ‘warning’ range (.05-.08), for a first time offence you could be subject to a $150 administrative penalty, and a 3-day roadside licence suspension. A second warning offence brings with it a $150 admin penalty, a 7-day roadside licence suspension, as well as a mandatory alcohol education program (MTO, 2015). Lastly, a third warning offence brings with it a $150 admin penalty, an un-appealable 30-day roadside licence suspension, mandatory alcohol treatment program, and a six-month ignition interlock (i.e. an installed machine that requires a certain BAC in order for your car to start). Keep in mind these are just the penalties for warnings.

 

            If you test over the legal BAC limit of .08, you are given a 90-day roadside licence suspension, a $150 admin penalty, and 7-day vehicle impoundment (MTO, 2015); this is all before a conviction for impaired driving is even tendered. Upon conviction of a first-time impaired driving charge, there is a mandatory alcohol education or treatment program, one year with an ignition interlock program, no minimum jail sentence, a $1000 fine, and a licence suspension for 1 year (MTO, 2015). A second offence in this regard brings with it all of the penalties of a first offence, and adds a 3-year ignition interlock program, 30-day minimum jail sentence, a fine at the discretion of the judge, and a licence suspension for 3 years (MTO, 2015). On a third conviction for an impaired driving charge, one is given a lifetime ignition interlock sentence, a minimum of 120 days in jail, a discretionary fine, and a possible lifetime licence suspension.

 

            The cost of an alcohol education or treatment program will likely vary but will not be cheap either. The MTO (2015) offers an 11-month program through its Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. The name of the program is “Back on Track,” and can be found at: http://www.remedial.net/about.html. Often an impaired charge can bring about the need for a medical review to assess whether one is alcohol dependent and needing of further treatment.

 

            Another significant monetary implication of an impaired driving conviction is the effect said conviction will have on insurance. To begin, if one has received an impaired conviction, it may generally be difficult to find an insurer for a period of up to three years post-conviction. This is so because insurance companies often flag impaired drivers as recidivists. Tchir (2014) reports that post-conviction, it can cost up to $8,000 more per year to be insured. Tchir (2014) further notes that many private insurers follow government run insurance companies by adding a $1000 surcharge to any person post-conviction who installs an ignition interlock device. In effect, one would keep the same lower insurance rate, subject to the $1000 charge, which is a small price to pay if one is saving up to $7000 per year. Needless to say, an impaired driving charge clearly makes insurance costs rise at a significant rate.

 

            The financial drain itself is difficult enough in relation to impaired driving, and this is not to mention the non-monetary implications. Often the most significant implication arises in the form of societal stigmatization. The stigma associated to someone in these circumstances never really attempts to embrace the notion that people make mistakes. This is likely because the consequences of impaired driving can be the severest (i.e. loss of life). There is no need to list the types of stigmas associated to someone with an impaired driving charge as they are inherently obvious.

 

            Aside from stigmatization, an impaired driving charge can result in loss of employment or loss of educational opportunities. There are certain kinds of employment that require employees to adhere to a code of conduct. There are also certain educational programs that will not accept applicants who possess an impaired driving conviction (i.e. a criminal charge). Another significant impact that an impaired driving charge can have upon conviction is that as impaired driving is a criminal offence, there are many countries that will bar entry as a result. This means one may not be able to travel abroad until one applies for a criminal record suspension (pardon), which also costs money.

 

            The impact that an impaired driving charge can have on an individual’s life is very significant for a multitude of reasons. Needless to say it is advisable to always have a back-up travel plan when considering the consumption of alcohol. 

 

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References 

 

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (2013) Overview: The Financial Cost of Impaired

Driving. Accessed: 10 June 2015, Available: www.madd.ca.

 

Ministry of Transportation Ontario (2015) Impaired Driving. Accessed 10 June 2015,

Available: http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/safety/impaired-driving.shtml#Consequences-of-drinking.

 

Tchir, J. (2014) How an Impaired Driving Conviction can affect your Insurance Rates.

The Globe and Mail. Accessed 10 June 2015, Available: www.globeandmail.com.