Blog Impaired Driving In Ontario

Aug 11, 2020

What You Need To Know About Impaired Driving Laws

Impaired driving is not only dangerous, it can ruin lives. However, many drivers in Ontario continue to drive while impaired. Drug impaired and drunk driving accidents in Ontario remain a road safety threat. 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.

In this blog, we’ll discuss impaired driving in Ontario. We’ll provide impaired driving definitions and discuss laws, penalties and statistics. Get important information all drivers in Ontario need to be aware of before they get behind the wheel.

What Is Impaired Driving?

Impaired driving in Ontario is a serious offence. It refers to two main types of impairment – drug impairment and alcohol impairment. Driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher is a criminal offense. You also face consequences if ycompour BAC is between 0.05 and 0.08. For drug impairment, you cannot have more than two nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood.

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

What Is The Meaning Of Impaired Driving?

What Is 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.

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.

What Is The 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.

What Are The Types Of Impaired Driving In Ontario?

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

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

  • Drinking And Driving : This is the most commonly associated form of impaired driving.
  • Drug-Impaired Driving : Drug impaired driving is on the rise. This includes legal and illegal drugs.
  • Prescription Medication : This is often overlooked, but taking prescription medication can impact your ability to drive as much as drugs and alcohol.

New Impaired Driving Laws In Canada

As of December 18, 2018, there are new impaired and driving and driving laws in Canada.

The Government of Canada recently introduced changes to impaired driving laws in Canada. They give law enforcement new powers. Changes to both drug and alcohol impaired driving were introduced. The changes included in the legislation include :

  • Mandatory alcohol breathalyzer testing : Police will now have the authority to demand a breath sample from any driver they stop. They no longer require reasonable suspicion. You can be charged if you refuse to take the roadside test.
  • No more bolus drinking defence : If the past, drivers could argue they consumed alcohol just before driving and it was not absorbed. This defence is eliminated.
  • Oral fluid samples : Police 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 $1,000. More than 5 nanograms or mixing drugs with alcohol could lead to larger fines and possible jail time.

The new laws also increase the maximum fines for most alcohol impaired offences. Changes to the interlock program and other changes were also proposed.

What Are The Impaired Driving Penalties?

Impaired Driving In Ontario

There are a variety of penalties for impaired driving. Your impaired driving penalties will depend upon whether you’ve been convicted of impaired driving in the past. 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.

Laws For Impaired Driving In Canada

The criminal code of Canada impaired driving penalties and fines vary based on the charge and offence. Repeat offenders face greater fines, penalties, and jail time. These penalties are in addition to provincial impaired driving laws. The criminal code of Canada impaired driving penalties are as follows as outlined by the Department of Justice :

Alcohol Impairment


  • Alcohol-impaired driving
  • Having a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) at or over 80mg per 100ml of blood within 2 hours of driving.


  • 1st offence : Mandatory minimum $1000 fine; Maximum 10 years imprisonment
  • 2nd offence : Mandatory minimum 30 days imprisonment; Maximum 10 years imprisonment
  • 3rd offence : Mandatory minimum 120 days imprisonment; Maximum 10 years imprisonment

Drug Impairment


  • Drug-impaired driving
  • Having 5ng or more of THC per ml of blood within 2 hours of driving.
  • Any detectable level of LSD, psilocybin, psilocin, ketamine, PCP, cocaine, methamphetamine, 6-mam within 2 hours of driving.
  • Having 5mg or more of GHB per 1 litre of blood within 2 hours of driving.


  • 1st offence : Mandatory minimum $1000 fine; Maximum 10 years imprisonment.
  • 2nd offence : Mandatory minimum 30 days imprisonment; Maximum 10 years imprisonment.
  • 3rd offence : Mandatory minimum 120 days imprisonment; Maximum 10 years imprisonment.

A Combination Of Alcohol And Drug Impairment


  • Having a BAC of 50mg per 100ml of blood + 2.5ng or more of THC per 1ml of blood within 2 hours of driving.


  • 1st offence : Mandatory minimum $1000 fine; Maximum 10 years imprisonment
  • 2nd offence : Mandatory minimum 30 days imprisonment; Maximum 10 years imprisonment
  • 3rd offence : Mandatory minimum 120 days imprisonment; Maximum 10 years imprisonment

Refuse Sample


  • Refusal to comply with demand for sample.


  • 1st offence : Mandatory minimum $2000 fine
  • 2nd offence : Mandatory minimum 30 days imprisonment; Maximum 10 years imprisonment
  • 3rd offence : Mandatory minimum 120 days imprisonment; Maximum 10 years imprisonment

Drug-Impaired Driving - Summary Conviction

Here are the charges and penalties for drug impaired driving :

  • Charge : Having over 2ng but less than 5ng of THC per ml of blood within 2 hours of driving.
    • Penalty : Maximum $1000 fine
  • Charge : Impaired driving causing bodily harm
    • Penalty : Maximum 2 years imprisonment less a day. If you are indicted you face a maximum of 14 years in jail.
  • Charge : Impaired driving causing death
    • Penalty : Maximum life imprisonment
  • Charge : 1st offence + BAC of 80-119 ml
    • Penalty : Mandatory minimum $1000 fine
  • Charge : 1st offence + BAC of 120-159 ml
    • Penalty : Mandatory minimum $1500 fine
  • Charge : 1st offence + BAC of 160 mg or more
    • Penalty : Mandatory minimum $2000 fine

What Are The Rules For Impaired Driving In Ontario

The fines and penalties for impaired driving in Ontario vary. If you have a BAC of 0.05 to 0.08, you are considered in the warn range and will face administrative penalties. If you have a BAC of 0.08 or higher and are convicted you face a different set of penalties.

The MTO outlines penalties for impaired driving convictions :

Warn Range – First Conviction

  • 3 day licence suspension
  • $250 fine

Warn Range – Second Offence Within 5 Years

  • 7 day licence suspension
  • $350 fine
  • Mandatory education program

Warn Range – Third And Subsequent Offences Within 5 Years

  • 30 day licence suspension
  • $450 fine
  • Mandatory treatment program
  • Ignition interlock device for at least six months
  • Mandatory medical evaluation to see if you meet requirements to drive in Ontario

What Are The Penalties For Refusing Drug Or Alcohol Roadside Test

Refusal to take a BAC roadside test or if a drug recognition evaluators determines you are impaired will result in :

  • 90 day licence suspension
  • Vehicle impoundment for 7 days
  • $550 fine
  • $281 licence reinstatement fee (if it’s your second occurrence within 10 years)
  • Mandatory treatment program
  • Use of an ignition interlock device for 6 months (if it’s your third occurrence within 10 years

How Do Police Detect Impaired Drivers?

Police use a variety of tests to assess the sobriety of drivers. In Ontario, they use these four tests :

  • Field Sobriety Test : If police suspect impairment, they will perform a roadside standardized field sobriety test.
  • Breath Testing : Police can demand a breath sample from any drivers they stop. This is used to determine a drivers BAC.
  • Drug Recognition Evaluation : If an officer believes a driver is impaired by drugs the driver will be required to take a test at the police station. The test assesses drug impairment.
  • Approved Drug Screening Devices : Police can demand an oral fluid sample to assess drug impairment.

Impaired Driving And New and Young Drivers

There is zero tolerance for driving and driving and drug impaired driving for new drivers. New and young drivers in Ontario are not permitted to have any alcohol or drugs. This is applicable to all drivers with a G1 or G2 drivers licence. They will receive fines and penalties even if trace amounts are in their system. You must have a 0.00% BAC at all times when driving, even if you are legal drinking age.

What Is Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)?

Blood alcohol concentration is something you hear a lot about in relation to drunk driving. Blood alcohol concentration means the amount of alcohol a person has in their blood stream at a given time.

A BAC of 0.08% means your blood supply has 0.08 parts of alcohol for every 1000 parts blood. As your BAC increases, so does your level of impairment.

What Does Blood Alcohol Concentration Of 0.05 Mean?

Impaired Driving And Alcohol

When a person has a BAC of 0.05% they can start to experience minor impairments related to memory and reasoning. It can impair your ability to drive. At 0.05% you have 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood in your system. It also means you have reached the warm level.

)If you are caught driving with 0.05% BAC and up to 0.08% you face administrative driving penalties. MADD explains:

” Drivers at these levels do not face criminal impaired driving charges, but they are subject to licence suspensions ranging from 24 hours to 7 days depending on the province or territory. Provincial administrative licence suspension programs also include escalating suspensions for repeat infractions, vehicle impoundments, education and remedial program requirements and alcohol ignition interlocks.”

Impaired Driving Statistics In Canada

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. In 2016, there were about 70,000 incidents. In 2017, there were 69,000.
  • Drug-impaired driving is up : 3000 incidents were reported, double the amount in 2009. There were about 3000 incidents in 2016, and 3500 in 2017.
  • 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 at 480 incidents per 100,000 drivers.
  • Males the most likely culprits : 80% of those charged with impaired driving are male. However, the number of females charged (20%) has increased over the past three decades.

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

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.

What Is Drug Impaired Driving?

Impaired Driving And Marijuana

Drug-impaired driving refers to the operation of a motor vehicle while one’s ability is adversely affected by a drug, including illegal drugs, prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and volatile inhalants. This includes legalized marijuana.

In Canada, drug impaired driving is not limited to road vehicles. It includes ATVs, boats, and aircraft – even if they are not in motion. In the case of the RCMP, you will be asked to undertake an evaluation to determine whether you are impaired. If you don’t comply, you will receive criminal charges. This evaluation and conviction process applies to all drugs – legal, over-the counter or illegal.

Are There Demerit Points For Impaired Driving?

Contrary to what you may think, there are no demerit points for impaired driving in Ontario. Impaired falls under the Criminal Code of Canada. There may be demerit points for other moving violations related to an impaired charge.

Impaired Driving Causing Death, Bodily Harm

Impaired driving laws become more severe if 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 Conviction

An impaired driving conviction will significantly impact your rates, how you are classified, and your ability to get coverage.

Expect your rates in Ontario to skyrocket with an impaired driving charge. Your rates can increase by up to 5 times your normal premiums or more.

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.

What Is The Back On Track Program?

If you are convicted of impaired driving, you will be required to complete the Back On Track Program. This includes if you were convicted of driving while impaired by drugs. You can register for the program online and attend in person at a location in your city.

You will be required to complete an Education Workshop and a Treatment Workshop. The program takes 16 hours to complete. The cost of the program is $634. If you do not complete the program your licence will remain suspended.

How Can I Avoid Driving While Impaired?

You make the decision to drive while impaired. It’s important to not put yourself in situations where you could get behind the wheel when impaired. Here are some common sense tips to help you avoid driving while impaired :

  • Be responsible : Make the decision to not drive if you’ve been drinking or using drugs.
  • Have a plan : Always have a plan to get home safely. Plan ahead of time before you go out for the evening.
  • Use a designated driver : Agree upon a designated driver before you start drinking.
  • Call a driver service :Call a taxi, Uber, Lyft, or designated driver service to get home.
  • Stay the night : Make arrangements to stay at a friend or families home or book a hotel.

You can also help prevent others from driving while impaired. Don’t allow others to drive if they have been drinking. If you suspect a driver to be impaired, notify the police. Taking these steps can help keep our roads safe.

Ontario Impaired Driving FAQs

Drivers have a lot of questions related to impaired driving rules, laws, penalties and consequences. Here are the most common :

An impaired driving charge will stay on your driving record for 3 years. It will take 10 years for the conviction to be removed from your criminal history.

Impaired driving will affect your premiums for 6 years. During this time you will have higher rates.

Yes. There are provincial and federal laws outlawing impaired driving. You face criminal charges at the federal level and you also face penalties for breaking provincial driving laws.

If you are involved in an accident and the other driver is impaired, you will be covered by your insurer. If you are impaired and cause an accident, you will not be covered.

It depends on the person. It may be one beer or it could be two. It depends on your size, the period between your last drink and when you plan to drive, and many other factors. Don’t chance it. If you plan to drink, don’t drive.

Yes, depending on the circumstances of your conviction, you could face jail time.

In general, drinking one beer, glass of wine, or spirit will not put you in danger of reaching a .08 BAC. This is especially if you have food or wait a while before driving. If you feel the effects, just don’t drive.

Every person is different. Know your limits. If you plan to drink, don’t plan to drive afterwards.

Its always a good idea to wait to drive if you’ve had a drink. It takes the average person about one hour to process one alcoholic beverage. So, if you had one drink, wait an hour. If you’ve had two, wait two hours. Any more than this, you should not drive, just to be safe.

It’s estimated that between 1250-1500 people are killed each year because of impaired driving. An additional 63,000 are injured.

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