Tougher drunk driving penalties would be welcome

Tuesday, Jan 28, 2014 06:00 am | By Dan Singleton


Despite the best efforts of many stakeholders, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), far too many people continue to ignore the simple message that sober driving is always a must.

If current trends hold true this year, more than 1,000 Canadians will die at the hands of impaired drivers on roads and highways over the next 12 months, with thousands more people being seriously injured.

And on top of the vast physical costs in terms of death and injury, there will, of course, also be countless families left to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.

While everyone hopes that the number of impaired driving-caused deaths will somehow decline sharply in 2014 compared with past years, the hard fact is that that may be only so much wishful thinking.

Yet if the carnage being caused year in and year out by drunk drivers were the result of something else – say, for example, from foreign military attack – would the nation stand for it? The answer would most assuredly be no.

Would things really be allowed to carry on as they have been for the past many years, with thousands and thousands of lives snuffed out with almost clockwork efficiency, if it was due to acts of terrorism? Again, the answer would be no.

So what can and should be done? Perhaps it’s time for Canada to start responding to the drunk driver threat the same way it responds to terrorism. That is, make the cost to the terrorist/drunk driver so heavy and so severe that he or she will be forced to think twice and then think again about whether the price is worthwhile.

Drunk driving penalties in Canada, which haven’t changed in years, currently start at a $1,000 fine and a one-year driving prohibition, rising ever so gradually with subsequent and more serious violations.

It’s high time for the federal government to use its authority to drastically, not marginally, increase those penalties – and MPs can rest assured that the vast majority of Canadians will support them if they do so.

Hopefully, 12 months from now Canadians will be hearing about how roads and highways are much safer thanks to progressive government action.

What no one wants to see is for 2014 to be a repeat of 2013 – when drunk drivers ran wild while facing only lightweight penalties for ruining the lives of their fellow citizens.

So over the next 12 months, if and when reports come in about drunk drivers killing and hurting Albertans and other Canadians, residents should ask themselves, “What, if anything, is the Harper government doing about it?”


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