Impaired Driving

Impaired: The drunk driver profiled

Jeff Green
The Spec
(Fri Sep 30 2011)

It’s the elephant in the bar.

You have a couple of drinks after work with the office crew. One drink turns into a few. A few turns into a few more. Someone reaches for their car keys to go home, and nobody says anything. Hamilton police say the typical drunk driver is the after-work drinker. And MADD Canada suggests that type of drinker comes out more as the fall sports season kicks off.

Within the past two weeks, a 20-year-old Hamilton student was killed in a hit and run, which police allege involved a drunk driver. And in Niagara, officers conducting a R.I.D.E. program for the annual wine festival earlier this month stopped 2,100 vehicles and charged five drivers with impaired driving or over 80 milligrams – or blowing over .08 in a breathalyzer test that measures your blood alcohol level. Patrol officers nabbed seven more during the campaign. But when it comes to men after work – and there is a clear male bias in impaired driving arrest statistics – police say many don’t realize a pint of beer is more than one “drink.”

Four pints in two hours is more alcohol than a six pack. With that much, a drinker is likely to blow in the “warn range” – 50 mg of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood, in Ontario. It carries a minimum three-day roadside suspension. The legal limit is in Canada is .08. At over 80 mg, it’s a criminal offence with a minimum 90-day roadside suspension, and a one-year licence suspension on conviction. In Hamilton, men made up 83 per cent of impaired driving arrests in the past 12 months. And the majority of those – 80 per cent – are first-time offenders.

“These aren’t people that are just heavy drinkers,” said Sergeant Claus Wagner, traffic safety co-ordinator for the Hamilton police. “They’re just average people that don’t understand it. You had too much. (They think) ‘I don’t want to leave the car, it’s embarrassing’ or whatever and they drive home.” Of the 507 impaired driving arrests in Hamilton from September 2010 to August 2011, 57 per cent of drivers were nabbed before the bars closed at 2 a.m. And they haven’t just had a few – on average, they’re blowing .17, or more than twice the legal limit.

Hamilton police say the majority of those getting busted fall into two distinct age groups – 25-34-year-olds make up the largest, while the 45-54 set comes in a very close second. In 2010, the two groups only differed by seven arrests for men. Out of seven age ranges, those two groups made up 47 per cent of the impaired driving arrests.

Zero tolerance makes zero sense for drivers.

Connie Woodcock
The Toronto Sun
(September 2, 2010)

Good morning, young drivers of Ontario, and welcome to the brave new world of driver’s licence rules.

What? You didn’t know there were new rules starting Sunday? Not surprising really – not when the Ontario government trots them out at a press conference on a hot midsummer Monday, when many young Ontarians are either on vacation, at camp or just enjoying doing nothing – and less than a week before they were due to go into effect. So here’s a quick summary: If you’re under 22 and get caught with even a trace of alcohol in your blood stream, starting Aug. 1 you’ll have your licence lifted immediately for 24 hours and face a 30-day suspension plus as much as $500 in fines. And that means everyone under 22, even if you’re beyond the graduated licence system. Or in other words, you’ll be a drunk driver without being drunk.

The new rules also apply to all novice drivers of any age. Obtaining a driver’s licence in Ontario was already confusing enough. There’s the graduated licence system which the government keeps tinkering with. There has been a flock of new driving rules the last few years, the most controversial being street racing/stunt driving which police have used on all kinds of speeding infractions. A law that was supposed to go into effect now along with the zero tolerance rules was to have prevented young drivers from carrying more than one passenger but the McGuinty government had to back down on that one when it realized it would cause serious problems for rural young people with limited transportation options. Then there’s impaired driving. The legal limit for alcohol in the bloodstream while driving is still .08 in Ontario but you’d never know it. For the last couple of years, police have been suspending the licences of people who blow .05 as a warning.

Now it’s zero tolerance for some. And there are many ways in which to fall into the government’s zero tolerance trap. Mouthwash, for instance. It’s full of alcohol and what young male doesn’t use a lot of it when meeting a young female? Cough and cold medication – also loaded with it. A number of chocolates contain a bit of alcohol. So much for Gran Marnier-flavoured truffles. And let’s not forget communion. Stay away from it. That little sip of wine will finish you off. Yes, I know not many of you will be bothered by this since you don’t attend church now, but we really didn’t need yet another excuse for you to stay away. That’s the trouble with zero tolerance. There’s no room for error. In fact, we know zero tolerance doesn’t usually work. It’s been tried in schools to clamp down on violence and results in a whole class of students unable to go to school. Zero tolerance for drugs in the U.S. has done nothing much except create a whole new bunch of criminals out of people who smoke a little marijuana.

So what’s up with this, you’re asking? I’ll tell you what’s up: They think we’re all drooling idiots. Me with 40 years of driving experience and you who have been brought up in a Mothers Against Drunk Driving world. None of us can be trusted, whether it’s smoking in cars or talking on cellphones while driving or drinking a single bottle of beer. And if you’re a government that has made some unpopular decisions lately – HST and eco tax, to name just two – it’s really easy to appeal to political correctness in search of a little approval and it doesn’t cost you any money. In fact, you may make a few bucks on the fines. After all, who is going to have the nerve to stand up and complain about too many rules around as touchy a subject as drunk driving? Nobody.