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Impaired Driving in British Columbia

Despite stringent laws against impaired driving, impaired driving accidents in British Columbia (BC) continue to occur each year. Impairment remains in the top three contributing factors for fatal car crashes, next to distracted driving and speeding. Approximately 27 percent of motor vehicle fatalities are related to impaired driving, according to Insurance Corporation British Columbia (ICBC).


When looking at driver statistics, males account for 71 percent of all impaired drivers. The highest number of impaired drivers in crashes (31 percent) are between 16-25 years of age. Most impaired driving crashes (59 percent) occur on weekends, with almost half (43 percent) taking place between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m.

Incidence of Impaired Driving Accidents
While the incidence of impaired driving accidents in BC has declined over the years, the number of crashes from impaired driving is still unacceptably high. Forty years ago, in 1976, there were more than 300 fatalities in BC from impaired driving accidents and now, the last published records show that 64 people died in such collisions in 2013.

Impaired Driving Laws
In order to curb the risk of related accidents, BC has put in place strict laws to penalize impaired drivers. In BC, an impaired driver can be penalized under the Motor Vehicle Act or the Criminal Code of Canada.

The Motor Vehicle Act provides authority to and regulates drivers and vehicles on BC roads. In s.215, it stipulates that if you have care and control of a motor vehicle and an Approved Screening Device (ASD) indicates that you have BAC of 0.05 mg/100ml or more, then you can be served with an Immediate Roadside Prohibition (IRP). If you are in the Graduated Licensing Program and caught with any level of blood alcohol, then a 12 or 24 hour driving prohibition is also possible.

A peace officer can ask you to provide a blood and/or a breath sample if he or she has reasonable grounds to believe that you are committing an offence, or at any time within the preceding three hours have committed this offence. It is important to comply with the request as it is an offence to refuse or fail to provide a blood and/or a breath sample that is requested by the police without a valid reason (e.g., medical reason).

WARN
A “WARN” on an ASD is when your breath sample contains a BAC of not less than 0.05mg/100ml. If a WARN results, the following consequences may occur as per Part 4, s.215 of the Motor Vehicle Act:


For a first offence within a five-year period:


  • Your driver's licence may be immediately seized for three days, in which case you must apply to have your licence reinstated;
  • The vehicle you are driving may be impounded for three days (in which case you are responsible for all towing and vehicle storage costs); and
  • A $200 administrative penalty may apply.


For a second offence within a five-year period:


  • Your driver's licence may be immediately seized for seven days, in which case you must apply to have your licence reinstated;
  • The vehicle you are driving may be impounded for seven days (in which case you are responsible for all towing and vehicle storage costs);
  • A $300 administrative penalty may apply;
  • You may be referred to the Responsible Driver Program; and
  • You may be referred to the Ignition Interlock Program.


For a third offence within five-year period:


  • Your driver's licence may be immediately seized for 30 days, in which case you must apply to have your licence reinstated;
  • The vehicle you are driving may be impounded for 30 days (in which case you are responsible for all towing and vehicle storage costs);
  • A $400 administrative penalty may apply;
  • You may be referred to the Responsible Driver Program; and
  • You may be referred to the Ignition Interlock Program.


FAIL
A “FAIL” on an ASD is when your breath sample contains a BAC of not less than 0.08 mg/100ml or you refuse or fail to provide a breath sample. In these instances, you may be issued a 90 day immediate roadside prohibition or, at the officer’s discretion, you may be charged under the Criminal Code (s.249-261).

If you are issued a 90-day IRP, the following consequences may occur:


  • Your driver's licence may be immediately seized for 90 days, in which case you must apply to have your licence reinstated;
  • The vehicle you are driving may be impounded for 30 days (in which case you are responsible for all towing and vehicle storage costs);
  • A $500 administrative penalty applies;
  • You may be referred to the Responsible Driver Program; and
  • You may be referred to the Ignition Interlock Program.


If the police decide to pursue criminal charges, the following consequences will occur:


  • You may be issued a 24 hour driving prohibition;
  • The vehicle you are driving may be impounded for 24 hours (in which case you are responsible for all towing and vehicle storage costs);
  • You may be detained for further breathalyzer testing at the police station;
  • Upon further confirmed testing of a BAC over 0.08, or upon refusal to provide a breath sample, you will be charged with impaired driving under the Criminal Code.


If you are convicted of impaired driving, you will be subject to court ordered consequences, which may include the following:


  • You will be prohibited from driving for a minimum of one - three years for a first offence, two - five years for a second offence and three years for a third offence;
  • A $1,000 fine applies on a first offence;
  • You may need to serve jail time, at a minimum of 30 days for a second offence and 120 days for a third offence and up to a maximum of five years for any offence (including the first one);
  • You may be referred to the Responsible Driver Program; and
  • You may be referred to the Ignition Interlock Program.


The sentence imposed will depend on various factors, including whether an injury or death occurred.

It is important to be aware that driving under the 0.8 percent BAC limit does not mean that criminal charges have been avoided; impaired driving charges can be laid with a reading within the 0.8 percent BAC limit and without BAC measured if there is other evidence of impairment (e.g., reduced reaction time, slurred speech or bad driving). An “over 80” charge can also be laid instead of an impaired driving charge where a BAC reading is higher than 0.8 percent even if your ability to drive a motor vehicle is not impaired.

Under the Motor Vehicle Act, police can also issue a 24 hour suspension of driving privileges if the officer believes that a person is the driver of or has care and control of a motor vehicle and their ability is impaired by alcohol or a drug.

Reducing the Incidence of Impaired Driving
CounterAttack is a police-run roadblock measure that randomly stops drivers and checks for impaired driving as a way to prevent impaired driving accidents. Police enforcement occurs year-round, with increased road checks during the highest risk periods for drinking and driving, in July and during the December holiday season. Public awareness campaigns are also in place to try and reduce the incidence of drunk driving accidents.

Contact the Vancouver Accident Lawyers at Bronson Jones & Company LLP
At Bronson Jones & Company LLP, we see the victims of impaired driving accidents in Vancouver and across cities in BC. We help victims of motor vehicle accidents achieve the compensation they deserve. Our accident lawyers are highly experienced with impaired driving collisions. We are BC injury lawyers in business for over 35 years, focussing on serious motor vehicle accidents and wrongful death. Our accident lawyers are in Vancouver and 11 other locations in BC. Call us at 1-855-852-5100. Representing vehicle accident victims. It’s all we do.

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