Monday, July 29, 2013
MADD Canada to Justice Minister MacKay: If You Want to Address the Problem of Impaired Driving, Implement Random Breath Testing
"If Minister MacKay wants a cost-effective and efficient way to prevent more than 200 impairment-related crash deaths, and more than 12,000 injuries in Canada each year, he needs only to look within that report for the research and the recommendation on random breath testing," said MADD Canada Chief Executive Officer Andrew Murie.
Random breath testing is a roadside breath screening test to detect impaired drivers. It has resulted in significant and sustained reductions in impaired driving crash deaths in the numerous countries which have adopted it. Based on the international results, MADD Canada estimates it would reduce impairment-related crash deaths and injuries by 20% in Canada each year.
Random breath testing was recommended by the Federal Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in its report entitled "Ending Alcohol-Impaired Driving: A Common Approach". Like numerous jurisdictions around the world and international traffic safety organizations, the Committee recognized the effectiveness of this impaired driving countermeasure and the benefits it would have in Canada. The report, including the recommendation for random breath testing, was accepted in principle by former Justice Minister, the Honourable Rob Nicholson. Yet, more than 4 years later, the Government has made no move to adopt the measure.
"Tougher sentences are often cited as a way to reduce impaired driving, but sentencing has a limited deterrent impact," Mr. Murie said. "MADD Canada absolutely supports tougher sentences for impaired driving, but sentencing alone will not be the solution. There is an urgent need for measures, such as random breath testing, which will prevent people from driving impaired in the first place."
Existing breath screening laws are not an effective deterrent because the likelihood of being stopped, charged and convicted is very low. Survey, criminal charge and conviction data indicate that a person would have to drive impaired, on average, once a week for more than 3 years before being charged with an impaired driving offence, and for over 6 years before ever being convicted.
Random breath testing would authorize police to demand a breath sample from any driver. It greatly increases the number of drivers screened and it greatly increases the perception that if you drive impaired, the chance of getting caught is much higher.
MADD Canada has analyzed the traffic safety impact, constitutional issues and cost implications of random breath testing:
It is estimated that random breath testing would reduce impaired driving deaths and injuries by 20%.
Random breath testing would save $4.3 billion in health-related expenditures, lost productivity and other social costs. While random breath testing would undoubtedly entail increased police enforcement costs, these would be largely offset by a reduction in the police resources devoted to attending and following up on impairment-related crashes.
As with most changes to police enforcement powers, random breath testing is likely to be challenged under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, legal and constitutional experts agree it will withstand legal challenge.
A 2010 Ipsos Reid poll indicated 77% of Canadians would support random breath testing.
"While New Zealand, Australia and most European countries have adopted random breath testing and reduced their overall impaired driving crashes and fatalities, Canada has lagged behind," Mr. Murie said. "Minister MacKay has the opportunity to change that and make significant progress in the fight against impaired driving by introducing random breath testing."
About MADD Canada
MADD Canada (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) is a national, charitable organization that is committed to stopping impaired driving and supporting the victims of this violent crime. With volunteer-driven groups in more than 100 communities across Canada, MADD Canada aims to offer support services to victims, heighten awareness of the dangers of impaired driving and save lives and prevent injuries on our roads. For more information, visit www.madd.ca.