Traffic Injury Research Foundation Responds to Federal Justice Committee Report



    OTTAWA, June 22 /CNW Telbec/ - The Traffic Injury Research Foundation
(TIRF) supports many of the recommendations made in the June 18th report of
the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The recommendation to
maintain the current Criminal Code of Canada Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit
of 0.08 is prudent in light of recent research illustrating that the justice
system is having difficulty coping with the existing volume of impaired
driving cases.
    "To lower the legal limit to .05 could potentially double or even triple
the number of criminal impaired driving cases before the courts," says TIRF
President and CEO, Robyn Robertson. "At the same time, this influx of lower
BAC cases could rapidly erode the resources available to effectively prosecute
higher-BAC cases involving drivers that pose a much greater threat on the
road."
    In Canada, impaired driving cases currently account for an estimated 24%
of criminal caseloads. Of these impaired driving cases, it is estimated that
more than 40% of accused plead not guilty and proceed to trial. Repeat
offenders also account for 1/3 of all impaired driving cases. Of equal
concern, there are backlogs in the courts. It can take a year or more before
an impaired driving case gets to trial.
    "It has been suggested that many of those drunk drivers charged at the
.05 level will just plead guilty and not go to court, but this rationale is
not supported by existing data," says Robertson. "Almost half of those charged
at .08 are willing to go to court to avoid a criminal conviction or driving
prohibition, suggesting that it is unlikely that accused will be willing to
plead guilty at .05, particularly when the consequences of a criminal
conviction are so profound."
    The decision of the Committee to encourage a strengthening of provincial
administrative sanctions for BACs above 0.05 makes good sense. Currently, in
all provinces, with the exception of Quebec and the Yukon, drivers with a BAC
above 0.05 or above 0.04 in Saskatchewan face a licence suspension ranging
from 24 hours to 3 days for a first infraction. And many jurisdictions are
moving to track drivers charged at this level as well as increase sanctions
for repeat offences.
    "Provincial administrative sanctions are an immediate and tangible
penalty for those who may be driving under the influence at lower BACs," says
Robertson. The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators has created
a model that it is encouraging jurisdictions to implement and this process
must be monitored and evaluated."
    TIRF also strongly supports the Committee's recommendation to encourage
the use of alcohol ignition interlock devices in all provinces and
territories. Alcohol ignition interlocks are designed to protect the public by
incapacitating offenders and stopping them from driving after drinking.
    "Recent research shows that alcohol ignition interlocks effectively
reduce drunk driving recidivism by 50-90% while the device is installed," says
Robertson. "An interlock device is a regular reminder of the driver's
unacceptable behaviour that still enables offenders to remain employed and
uphold personal responsibilities."
    These recommendations along with the Committee's recommendations for
tougher sanctions for repeat impaired drivers, and for tougher sanctions to be
introduced for BACs in excess of .160 are important steps forward to help end
drinking and driving.
    Both the Federal and Provincial governments continue to implement changes
to the drunk driving system that are strategic and supported by research.
Changes include the Federal Government's amendments to the "evidence to the
contrary" defence last summer and the government of Quebec attempts to lower
the BAC for administrative sanctions from 0.08 to 0.05. More importantly, such
recommendations are made with consideration of the current environment and
context in Canada to ensure that recommendations are achievable and supported
by those tasked with implementation.

    About TIRF:

    Established in 1964, TIRF's mission is to reduce traffic-related deaths
and injuries. As a national, independent, charitable road safety institute -
TIRF designs, promotes, and implements effective programs and policies, based
on sound research. TIRF is a registered charity and depends on grants,
contracts, and donations to provide services for the public. More information
about TIRF can be found at: www.tirf.ca.




For further information:

For further information: Sara Oglestone, Manager, Marketing &
Communications, Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF), (613) 238-5235 ext.
304, sarao@tirf.ca, www.tirf.ca

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Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF)

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