Newfoundland and Labrador gets tough on drinking and driving

Amendments to the Highway Traffic Act will enhance enforcement against impaired driving, speeding in school zones and distracted driving. Bill 27 is now before the House of Assembly as part of the Provincial Government’s on-going commitment to raising awareness of unsafe driving habits and preventing vehicle collisions and injuries on the province’s roadways.

“Safety on all of our roadways is a priority for our government, and we are pleased to bring forward amendments that will help ensure this safety,” said the Honourable Kevin O’Brien, Minister of Government Services. “Along with increased enforcement measures for impaired driving and school zone speeding, we have placed a particular emphasis on habits that interfere with driving safety such as reading and sending text messages or programming GPS devices. Strengthening enforcement against all of these unsafe driving habits will help to educate people about the dangers of impaired and careless driving and, we hope, help reduce injuries and deaths on our roads.”

Increased enforcement for impaired driving includes the following proposed changes:

Authorize police to use random stops of vehicles as a means to determine whether drivers are impaired, driving while having a suspended licence or driving without insurance, among other serious offences;
Expand upon police officers’ powers of arrest without warrant for more serious offences;
Increase the current 24-hour suspension to a minimum of seven days (14 days for a repeat offence) for drivers with a blood alcohol level of between .05 per cent and .08 per cent;
Introduce a 90-day suspension for a driver whose blood alcohol is .08 per cent or more, as measured through a blood sample (the suspension begins on the 14th day following the person’s receipt of a copy of the analysis report); and,
Reduce the allowable blood alcohol level to 0.0 per cent, from the current .05 per cent, for drivers accompanying a novice driver.
“Enhanced enforcement will act as a deterrent against impaired driving, by increasing the likelihood of detection by authorities and raising the penalties for offences,” said the Honourable Felix Collins, Minister of Justice and Attorney General. “These legislative changes will enable the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to further protect the public from impaired drivers. Both police forces will be in a better position to identify and deal with impaired drivers whose actions continue to be a serious concern for this province, despite the widespread opinion that drinking or taking drugs and then driving is just not acceptable.”

Bill 27 also helps to protect school children by doubling the fines for speeding in school zones. This is similar to measures which increased fines for speeding in highway construction zones last year, to help protect workers on road improvement projects.

“Watching out for school children must be uppermost in drivers’ minds when they are driving in school zones,” said the Honourable Darin King, Minister of Education. “Speeding is simply not acceptable. This amendment reinforces the importance this government places on road safety, especially the safety of our children.”

Other provinces and territories have also doubled fines for speeding in school zones, including Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories.

The Highway Traffic Act will also be amended to prohibit dangerous driving habits, including the use of electronic devices such as cell phones, Blackberries and iPhones to send or read text messages, or programming GPS devices while the vehicle is in motion and can distract drivers from driving safely.

Drivers convicted of a violation will be subject to a minimum fine of $100, with a maximum fine of $400, and the accumulation of four demerit points. These penalties correspond with those administered for cell phone usage while driving. The legislation applies to all drivers – the only exceptions will be for making an emergency call and for police, ambulance and fire vehicles in the course of their duties.

Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia now have similar legislation, banning not only cell phones but also the use of additional and newer electronic devices.

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