At least 45 British Columbians who could have died because of impaired motorists are alive today thanks to some tough, new drinking-driving laws, say provincial politicians.
The provincial government announced Wednesday that preliminary data shows 68 people died in alcohol-related vehicle crashes between Oct. 1, 2010 and Sept. 30 this year, compared to 113 deaths on average in each of the previous five years.
The new statistics were released a little more than one year after the B.C. government introduced impaired-driving laws that are considered to be the toughest in Canada and one year after former solicitor general Rich Coleman mulled publicly the possibility of softening those laws.
“For the first time in a decade, we’ve seen a real drop in the deaths associated with impaired driving, and 45 more people made it home safe in the past year as a result,” Shirley Bond, minister of public safety and solicitor general, said in a statement.
“Together with public education, prevention programs and criminal sanctions, the roadside penalties will continue to play a role in helping to ensure the success seen over the past year becomes a life-saving trend over the longer term.”
The new rules have given police the ability to impound cars, issue 90-day driving bans and hand out hefty fines to individuals whose blood-alcohol level was higher than .05. That’s lower than the Criminal Code legal limit is .08.
Between Sept. 20, 2010 and Sept. 30, 2011, police served 23,366 immediate roadside prohibitions to drivers and impounded the vehicles of 20,020 drinking-drivers.
Premier Christy Clark said the provincial government initially hoped to cut impaired-driving laws by 35 per cent by the end of 2013.
“Just one year later, preliminary data shows we are already exceeding that with a 40 per cent reduction,” she said. “That’s 45 more families in B.C. who have been able to keep a loved one safe from impaired drivers.”
Chief Supt. Bill Dingwall, president of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police, said his organization supports the new law.
“The first-year success is a reflection of a significant change in public attitude towards drinking and driving, with enforcement and immediate sanctions reinforcing this remarkable change,” he said.
The provincial government also announced it will contribute $40,000 towards Alexa’s Bus.
The bus will take impaired-driving education on the road and will honour four-year-old Alexa Middelaer who died in 2008 after she was struck by a car as she stood by the side of a rural road, feeding a horse in Delta, B.C.
You might also be interested in: Please donate to Alexa’s Bus