New provincial legislation has been introduced that would hit drivers hard if they've been drinking and have kids in the car.
The penalty for exceeding the 0.04 alcohol limit while driving with kids under 16 will more than double. Motorists will incur an immediate seven-day driving suspension on a first offence. The same will go for anyone refusing a sobriety test.
Prince Albert Carlton MLA Joe Hargrave, the minister responsible for SGI, said while a recent drunk parent in the news wasn't the impetus for the tougher laws, it did highlight the issue.
“Obviously there’s a little bit more of it [parent drunk drivers] than what we think,” Hargrave said. “That was an extreme case, it was early in the morning, excessive amount of alcohol …but what could have happened to those kids? The thought just scares me.”
In September a Regina dad was caught four-times over the blood alcohol level while taking his children to school.
Hargrave said the new tougher laws are all about protecting children but he did not think it was necessary to go with a zero alcohol law similar to the one for smoking while having kids in the car.
“What we’ve done is a good reflection,” Hargrave said. "This is for 0.04 to 0.08. We don’t think we have to go to zero at this point but it’s something we’ll continue to look at.”
Speaking to the legislation Trina Cockle, the president of the MADD Prince Albert chapter said she was in support of tougher laws.
“A lot of people have been asking for tougher penalties all round so dealing with the kids in the car is certainly a step forward,” she said.
Cockle she she would have preferred a zero tolerance approach like it is for drivers smoking in cars with kids under-16 but she was hopeful public education would eventually take things that way given the strides made over the years regarding smoking in public and near children.
“I myself would not have a drink and drive my child,” she said. “I think it should be zero behind the wheel no matter what."
But while she was fully supportive of the hard work being done to increase penalties Cockle said she was eager to keep prevention as a top message.
“We have to stop it happening in the first place,” she said.
According to an SGI media release, the tougher seven-day suspension is an increase from the current three-day penalty. This is in addition to any jail sentence, fine, demerit points and additional sanctions that result from the impaired driving conviction.
Under the new legislation, repeat offenders who transport passengers under the age of 16 will face even more severe consequences. Licence suspensions for a second offence increase to 30 days from 21, while a third offence triggers a 120-day suspension, up from the current 90. New drivers already face licence suspensions of up to 18 months on a third offence.
Another key element to the legislation is extending the look-back period for impaired driving penalties to 10 years from five, which allows SGI to administer harsher penalties for repeat offenders.
On Twitter: @princealbertnow
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