Provincial impaired driving laws receive upgrade next month

By Nigel Maxwell
August 30, 2018 - 2:00pm Updated: August 30, 2018 - 3:56pm

Changes coming to Saskatchewan's impaired driving laws, are a step in the right direction according to a Prince Albert woman, whose father was killed by an impaired driver.

Whitney Darchuk said she was happy to hear there will be zero tolerance for drug impairment for all drivers behind the wheel. The change which takes effect Sept. 1 includes a penalty of immediate license suspension (up to five years if convicted) and the vehicle can be seized for up to 60 days.

"I’m really happy and glad to see they are making some changes and making some consequences steeper but I think they can still go further with it," Darchuk said.

Darchuk's father, Ben, was tragically killed in 2012 during a head-on collision with an impaired driver north of Prince Albert over the May long weekend. The man responsible, Tanner Hallett Courtney, who was under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time, was sentenced to two years less a day in a provincial jail. He also received a three-year driving prohibition. 

"It's wrong. It’s unfair. You know my father was doing nothing in the wrong and somebody completely took his life and I just don’t feel any of the consequences are strong enough, Darchuk said.

Darchuk said the pain of losing her father is something she deals with daily, and he is often the first thought on her mind when she wakes up in the morning.

"You can kind of give up on life or you can find a way to push through and re-create this new life you have been forced into with that person gone," she said. 

Also effective Sept. 1, there will be longer vehicle seizures for impaired drivers with passengers under the age of 16. Experienced drivers who are impaired and transporting passengers under 16 will face longer roadside license suspensions. Trina Cockle, President of the Prince Albert Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) chapter, said she believes the changes will send a strong message to people who drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

"We're just happy changes are being made and impaired driving is being taken seriously in this province and the country, there are just too many victims out there due to impaired driving," she said.

The legalization of recreational marijuana does not take effect until Oct. 17 but Cockle said the concern around the possibility of more drug impaired drivers on the roads has been a hot topic at MADD conferences the past couple years. She said there has been a good collaboration between MADD and the federal government.

 "I think the recommendations that have been made have been taken into consideration and I think all around people seem pretty happy with the outcomes," she said.


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