Police conducting a RIDE checkpoint. (File photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn Media)Police conducting a RIDE checkpoint. (File photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn Media)

Ontario toughening penalties for impaired drivers

Stiffer penalties are coming for those convicted of impaired driving in Ontario.

The provincial government plans to introduce new legislation that, if passed, would make it so anyone found guilty of impaired driving would have to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle and undergo mandatory remedial education and treatment. An ignition interlock is an in-car alcohol breath screening device that prevents a vehicle's engine from starting if alcohol is detected in the driver's system.

Under the proposed new measures, a lifetime driving ban would also be imposed on anyone convicted of impaired driving causing death.

“Everyone deserves to return home to their loved ones safely at the end of the day,” Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria said on Wednesday. “Too many families in Ontario have had their lives torn apart by the careless and shameful actions of impaired drivers. That’s why our government is introducing tough new measures, including lifetime licence suspensions, that will protect families and keep our communities safe.”

The new legislation would also increase first and second time immediate roadside licence suspensions for alcohol and drug-related driving from three and seven days to seven and 14 days and clarify the rules authorizing police to stop vehicles to administer sobriety tests.

“Mothers Against Drunk Driving commends the Ontario government for taking steps to make roads safer and hold impaired drivers accountable,” said Steve Sullivan the CEO of MADD Canada. “Despite progress, too many people are still making the choice to drive impaired, and we need to ensure sanctions hold drivers accountable while focusing on reducing recidivism.”

According to the province, one in three fatal collisions in Ontario involves an impaired driver and the percentage of drivers under the influence of cannabis more than doubled between 2012 and 2020. To help combat the increase in cannabis-impaired driving, the province will work to provide more tools and training to help police better detect offenders.

The new stiffer impaired driving penalties were announced a day after tougher measures against those convicted of auto theft and stunt driving were unveiled.

The Ford government intends to formally table the legislation at Queen's Park on Thursday.

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