Extremely tough laws against impaired driving in Canada kicked in last month, but at least one Ontario police force doesn’t think they go far enough.
Andy Pattenden, a spokesman for York Regional Police, is advocating for a complete ban on having any alcohol or THC in your system while behind the wheel.
Speaking on a panel on TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin, Pattenden said Canada should take the “guesswork” out of predicting when a driver’s blood alcohol level will be above the legal limit.
“We give people a moving target. We say ‘Yeah you can have some and here’s a number.’ That number means nothing to anybody until it’s too late, until they’re given a device, they blow into the device and it says ‘fail’,” Pattenden said.
“How about we take the guesswork out of it and make it zero. It’s not OK for you to go to your job in a factory, have a couple drinks, go operate that machinery so why is it any different that you’re allowed to get behind the wheel of a vehicle after having a couple drinks and put innocent lives at risk.”
There were 1,650 impaired driving charges laid last year in York, where Pattenden works.
He noted that implementing a zero tolerance policy for any alcohol or THC in a driver’s bloodstream would mean “we’d start to see the numbers come down.”
The comments come amidst concerns that the government’s new impaired driving laws are overreaching and unconstitutional.
Those laws give police the power to pull over any Canadian and demand a breath sample, without needing suspicion of impairment. Refusing to blow—even if sober—is a crime and could result in a criminal record.
According to a Global News report, a Mississauga man was pulled over and breathalyzed midday last Saturday, after a police officer observed him returning empty booze bottles at the Beer Store.
The man told Global the officer said he had returned an “excessive amount of bottles” and that refusing to blow would result in a criminal charge and licence suspension.
Kyla Lee, a Vancouver-based lawyer who specializes in impaired driving cases, told VICE it’s “absurd” that a driver would be pulled over for recycling bottles, especially considering the officer couldn’t have known factors like how long the bottles were accumulating or how many people were drinking.
“To rely on that to justify a detention and breath sample from somebody is absolutely absurd,” Lee said. “This is exactly what we were concerned about when they passed the random breath testing law, that people were going to be targeted for stupid reasons and this is a stupid reason.”
She said a zero tolerance policy for booze and THC while driving amounts to “infantilizing the entire population and treating us like we can’t make responsible decisions.”
Lee said the government could clear things up for Canadians by providing them with the information about how much booze it would take to go over the legal limit, based on a person’s weight.
“It’s really easy to figure it out,” she said. “It’s something the government could tell people but it’s choosing not to do so.”
The federal government passed several laws relating to cannabis-impaired driving, including creating criminal offences for driving with more two or more nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood. However, there is no scientific evidence definitively linking the THC levels in a person’s body and impairment.
Lee previously told VICE she plans to launch a constitutional challenge against random breath testing as soon as she gets the opportunity.
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