EDITORIAL: Shifting the cost of drunk driving

The onus is on the individual to defend wrongful drinking and driving charges

When B.C. launched Canada’s toughest drinking and driving laws in 2010, not everyone embraced the initiative with open arms.

A year after police were given powers to suspend a licence for 90 days on the spot and impound the vehicle for 30 days, with little recourse for appeal, a judge ruled the laws went too far and violated the Charter of Rights.

Last May, the provincial government eased up on those regulations, slightly, and gave people a better chance to fight what are significant financial penalties for drinking and driving.

The Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles is reviewing 1,200 cases of people caught under the immediate roadside prohibition (IRP) system just prior to the laws being thrown out in 2011.

But for everyone else, the tough rules are the law of the land (at least until another constitutional challenge) – blow a “fail” and you’ll lose your licence for 90 days, your car for 30, be forced to install an ignition interlock system, take a driver education program, and face fines. All told, the fines and fees add up to about $4,040 at minimum.

An IRP appears punitive on the driver, and to a large degree it is. But the crux of the system, besides acting as a deterrent, is that it removes drinking and driving from the criminal justice system.

The courts in B.C. had to deal with thousands fewer drinking and driving cases last year. Instead of those criminal cases gumming up an already calcified court system and costing taxpayer money, the financial burden has been downloaded to the accused drunk driver.

Being criminally prosecuted for drinking and driving certainly comes with financial penalties, the potential for jail time and a criminal record, but due to the overwhelming caseloads in many jurisdictions, there is always a chance that the case could drag out and eventually be thrown out of court due to a lack of a speedy trial.

The IRP process, “immediate” being the key word, provides a summary punishment and puts the onus on the accused drunk driver to appeal the fines and penalties.

The pendulum of law, it seems, has distinctly swung to the side of law and order rather than the assumption of innocence, in terms of drinking and driving. Statistics over the past decade show that drivers in B.C. weren’t getting the message. Perhaps they will now.

Just Posted

SD61 to install new water fountains over lead concerns

They’re installing 350 new water fountains in local schools due to concerns over elevated levels of lead in the water system

West Shore firefighters band together to support men’s health

More than $8,200 raised for Movember campaign

Omnibus zoning bylaw sent for revisions to prevent blanket upzoning in downtown Victoria

More than 10 downtown properties identified by Downtown Residents Association

UPDATE: Four vehicle crash on Sooke Road snarls traffic in Colwood

Sooke Road reopens to traffic in both direction

Belmont students, staff reunite family with long-lost war medal

Medal belonged to Sharon Hoover’s great-great uncle

VIDEO: That’s a wrap: Be a Santa to a Senior packages ready to go out

Program hands out more than 600 gifts to Greater Victoria seniors

Owl found dead after eating rat poison leaves B.C. woman concerned

After finding the owl on her Surrey property, Christine Trozzo says the poison is a concern for kids

Change to CPP death benefit panned as insufficient to cover funeral costs

Funeral Services Association of Canada lobbied governments to raise the value to $3,580

Shelbourne Community Kitchen vies for $20,000 prize

Epicure Foundation, based in North Saanich, will give five groups $20,000 each

Woman in Nanaimo accidentally hands over diamond ring with spare change

Incident happened Wednesday at about 7 p.m. at parking lot near Nanaimo’s boardwalk

B.C. woman brain injured in crash as a baby gets $1.1 million in damages

Trial heard the woman was 16 months old, being carried by her mother when they were both hit

Optimistic Victoria whale watching company invests in new vessel

Banner 2017 tourist season helps Prince of Whales decide to boost service

Victoria cycling advocate makes pitch lor lower speeds on local roads

Group points to evidence suggesting 30 km/h speed limit would save money, lives

Most Read