Jan 9, 2020

What You Need To Know About Impaired Driving

Impaired Driving In Ontario

Impaired driving is not only dangerous, it can ruin lives. However, many drivers in Ontario continue to drive while impaired. While a lot of work has been done, there is still a way to go, and if you do your part, you can help make our roads safer.

The following outlines impaired driving definitions, statistics and other important information all drivers in Ontario need to be aware of before they get behind the wheel.

What Is Impaired Driving In Ontario?

Impaired driving in Ontario is a serious offence. Driving while impaired puts people at risk, increases your chances of getting into an accident, and it could even land you in jail, not to mention the serious car insurance consequences.

The criminal code of Canada and each province have laws prohibiting impaired driving.

Impaired Driving Criminal Code Definition

Is impaired driving an indictable offense in Canada? Yes, impaired driving is a crime. The definition of impaired driving under Section 253 of the Criminal Code of Canada is as follows :

253 (1) - Every one commits an offence who operates a motor vehicle or vessel or operates or assists in the operation of an aircraft or of railway equipment or has the care or control of a motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railway equipment, whether it is in motion or not,

  • (A) while the person’s ability to operate the vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railway equipment is impaired by alcohol or a drug; or
  • (B) having consumed alcohol in such a quantity that the concentration in the person’s blood exceeds eighty milligrams of alcohol in one hundred millilitres of blood.
What Is Impaired Driving?

Impaired driving definition by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation :

"Impaired driving means operating a vehicle (including cars, trucks, boats, snowmobiles and off-road vehicles) while under the influence of alcohol or drugs."

While the definition of what constitutes drinking and driving is clear, there is ongoing research and debate about the definition of drug-impaired driving.

Difference Between Impaired Driving And DUI

Many people assume impaired driving and DUI are the same thing. DUI is actually one of the many types of impaired driving that focuses on drinking and driving. Learn more about Driving Under the Influence and DUI insurance. Impaired driving is a broader term that encompasses a number of impairments.

Types Of Impaired Driving In Ontario

There are three main types of impaired driving, each of which can impact your ability to drive :

  • Drinking and Driving : This is the most commonly associated form of impaired driving.
  • Drug-Impaired Driving : Drug imparied driving is on the rise and new ways to test for it are being developed.
  • Prescription Medication : This is often overlooked, but taking prescription medication can impact your ability to drive as much as drugs and alcohol.

Other things that can impair your ability to drive include lack of sleep, distracted driving, and texting and driving.

Learn more about impaired driving restrictions and the G1, G2, G - Ontario’s Graduated Driver's Licensing System Guide.

Impaired Driving Statistics In Canada

Impaired Driving And Alcohol

Statistics Canada’s most recent report on impaired driving, Impaired Driving in Canada, 2015, provides a great overview of impaired driving facts and stats. Here is what the report found:

  • Impaired driving is down : Police reported 72,039 impaired driving incidents in 2015, the lowest since 1986.
  • Drug-impaired driving is up : 3000 incidents were reported, double the amount in 2009.
  • Ontario leading the way : Ontario, along with Quebec and Manitoba, has the lowest instances of impaired driving among all provinces and territories.
  • 1 in 6 : Are repeat offenders.
  • Night time occurrence : About half of impaired driving instances occurred between 11pm and 4am.
  • Young drivers have the highest rates : Drivers aged 20-24 have the highest impaired driving rates.

Key Finding About Impaired Driving

"In spite of a decline in impaired driving rates over the past 30 years, impaired driving still remains one of the most frequent criminal offences and is among the leading criminal causes of death in Canada. In addition, while alcohol-impaired driving is down over the past several decades, drug-impaired driving is on the rise."

Impaired Driving Facts From MADD Canada

According a research report by MADD Canada, Total Crash Deaths Involving Alcohol and/or Drugs in Canada, by Jurisdiction, 2012 :

  • Impaired is a daily occurrence : About 4 people are killed each day in crashes involving alcohol and/or drugs.
  • Impaired is a leading factor in traffic fatalities : Of the traffic accidents resulting in a death in 2012, 58.8% involved drivers who had some alcohol and/or drug presence in their systems.

CDC Study - Impaired Driving Accidents

Impaired Driving And Marijuana

According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control, Canada is the leader of the drunk driving death rate among wealthy countries. According to the report, 34% of vehicle deaths in Canada were due to alcohol impairment. This is 3% higher than the United States (31%) and New Zealand (31%).

"Countries with the lowest percentage of fatal crashes tied to alcohol were Israel (3.2 per cent), Japan (6.2 per cent), and Austria (6.8 per cent)," says Douglas Quan on National Post.

Impaired Driving Laws

The Government of Canada recently introduced changes to impaired driving laws in Canada. The changes included in the legislation include:

  • Mandatory alcohol breathalyser testing : Police will now have the authority to demand a breath sample from any driver they stop. They no longer require reasonable suspicion.
  • Oral fluid samples : Police will have the authority to demand oral fluid samples (saliva) if they suspect the driver is impaired from drugs. A positive test could lead to further testing, such as a blood test.
  • Drug-impaired fines : Drivers with 2 nanograms but less than 5 nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood could face a fine up to $1000. More than 5 nanograms or mixing drugs with alcohol could lead to larger fines and possible jail time.

Changes to the interlock program and other changes were also proposed.

What Are The Impaired Driving Penalties In Ontario?

Impaired driving in Ontario brings with it serious consequences. Being convicted of impaired driving could lead to :

  • License : The loss of your driver’s licence.
  • Impound : You could have your vehicle impounded.
  • Fees : You may need to pay an administrative monetary penalty.
  • Treatment programs : You may need to go to an educational treatment program.
  • Fines : Receive a fine upon conviction.
  • Ignition interlock : You may be required to install an ignition interlock device in order to drive your vehicle.
  • Jail time : You could be sentenced to time in jail for your conviction.
  • Criminal record : You could get a criminal record.

Your impaired driving penalties will depend upon whether you’ve been convicted of impaired driving in the past. The MTO outlines penalties for impaired driving convictions :

First Impaired Driving Conviction

Impaired Driving And Prescription
  • Mandatory education treatment program
  • 1 year to drive with an ignition interlock device (post license suspension)
  • $1,000 fine
  • Licence suspension for minimum of 1 year (possibility of reduced suspension)

Second Impaired Driving Conviction

  • Mandatory education treatment program.
  • 3 years to drive with an ignition interlock device (post license suspension).
  • 30-day minimum jail sentence.
  • Fine to be determined by judge.
  • Licence suspension for minimum of 3 years.

Third Impaired Driving Convection

  • Mandatory education treatment program.
  • Variable interlock periods (post license suspension).
  • 120-day minimum jail sentence.
  • Fine to be determined by judge.
  • Lifetime licence suspension (can be reduced to 10 years if certain conditions met).

Demerit Points For Impaired Driving

Contrary to what you may think, there are no demerit points for impaired driving in Ontario because it does not fall under Ontario impaired driving laws. It falls under the Criminal Code of Canada. Learn more about impaired driving charges and Demerit Points in Ontario.

Impaired Driving Causing Death, Bodily Harm

Impaired driving laws become more severe is you cause harm to others :

  • Impaired driving causing bodily harm : If convicted, you could face up to 10 years in jail.
  • Impaired driving causing death : If convicted, you could face imprisonment for life.

Impaired Driving And Auto Coverage

Impaired Driving Statistics In Canada

If you are convicted of an impaired driving charge, you may have issues getting insurance coverage. You could be denied coverage or require high risk auto insurance.

Impaired drivers are considered to be riskier because they are more likely to be a repeat offender. “MADD Canada says 30 per cent of drivers with an impaired conviction get another within 10 years,” adds Jason Tchir on Globe and Mail.

Tips To Avoid Impaired Driving

Here are some common sense tips to help you avoid driving while impaired :

  • Be responsible – choose not to drive while impaired.
  • If you plan to drink, have a plan to get home.
  • Use a designated driver.
  • Call an Uber or taxi.
  • Stay the night.
  • Don’t allow others to drive if they have been drinking.
  • If you suspect a driver to be impaired, notify the police.

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