QUEBEC CITY, Aug. 8, 2017 /CNW Telbec/ - The federal government's proposal to explore lowering the legal alcohol limit for drivers in a bid to improve road safety, as reported in the Montreal daily La Presse, is of course commendable. But with cannabis due to be legalized in less than a year, CAA-Quebec believes that now is not the right time to introduce such a measure.
"Marijuana legalization is going to require major investments in prevention, awareness-raising and policing. And the amount and degree of progress of such efforts, as well as the planned amounts to be invested, are already worrisome," warns Marco Harrison, Director of the CAA-Quebec Foundation for Road Safety. "If the BAC limit is reduced to 0.05 as well, we believe the governments would be biting off more than they can chew, and the pill for motorists would be too hard to swallow," he adds.
Too fast in Quebec
This would be all the more true in Quebec, the only province that has yet to adopt so-called "administrative" measures for drivers found to have BAC levels between 0.05 and 0.08, meant to serve as a serious warning but without criminal consequences. "These measures are very effective because they make people think. But because they don't exist in Quebec, going ahead with an immediate change to the Criminal Code, with no phase-in period, could well create a lot of confusion and discontent," Mr. Harrison points out.
In favour of administrative penalties
CAA-Quebec has already come out publicly in favour of administrative measures, and a majority of its membership agrees. Fully 59% of members surveyed in early 2017 said spontaneously that they would agree with such penalties. And when told that the risk of a fatal collision increases two- to nine-fold for a driver with a BAC level between 0.05 and 0.08, they are in favour to the tune of 77%.
Real improvements between 0.05 and 0.08
Studies by Quebec's public health institute show there are real gains to be made by lowering the BAC limit to 0.5 from the current 0.08. CAA-Quebec believes that this should eventually be done, but without skipping steps and by allocating the necessary amounts of money for prevention, awareness-raising and police crackdowns, without which such a measure could be less effective.
More can be done, immediately!
Conversely, there is a lot more that authorities could be doing right away. CAA-Quebec is therefore calling on the Government of Quebec to earmark monies available in the Fonds de la sécurité routière to help police forces set up more roadblocks to detect impaired drivers. Roadblocks are an extremely effective deterrent that should be in more widespread use, no matter what the legal BAC limit is.
In conclusion, CAA-Quebec reminds the public that at the moment, the talk of lowering the BAC limit is just that: talk, in the form of a consultation being undertaken by federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould with her provincial counterparts and select groups including the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), and that no decision has been made yet. The CAA will be issuing its own recommendations in due course.
CAA-Quebec, a not-for-profit organization, provides all of its members with peace of mind by offering them high-quality automotive, travel, residential and insurance benefits, products and services.