B.C.’s tough drinking and driving laws reduce deaths by 52 per cent

Video: The BC government says tough new drunk driving laws are cutting drunk driving deaths in half but critics aren’t so sure the legislation is responsible. Darlene Heidemann has more.

B.C.’s tough drinking and driving laws have decreased DUI-related deaths by 52 per cent, the Ministry of Justice announced Monday.

The laws were introduced four years ago, in memory of four-year-old Alexa Middelaer, who was killed by a drunk driver in 2008.

Middelaer was feeding horses with her aunt on the side of 64th Street in Delta when Carol Ann Berner lost control of her vehicle and crashed into the pair, killing the young girl.

Middelaers’s aunt suffered critical injuries in the crash.

Berner was found guilty in 2010 on charges of impaired driving causing death, impaired driving causing bodily harm, dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

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The trial found that Berner was driving 91 kilometres per hour while impaired and sentenced her to 2.5 years in jail.

READ MORE: Berner admits to drinking on day of fatal crash 

After Middelaer’s death, the Immediate Roadside Prohibition program was launched on Sept. 20, 2010, with a goal to reduce drinking and driving fatalities by 35 per cent in three years.

Attorney general and minister of justice Suzanne Anton said that surpassing this goal has created real change in the province.

“What happened to Alexa was entirely preventable, and her family is one of many whose lives have been forever changed by drunk drivers. That’s why we continue to focus on protecting families and the public’s safety by discouraging drinking and driving on our roads,” Anton said.

The 52 per cent decrease represents 190 lives that have been saved since the new laws were introduced.

Under the new program, drinking-and-driving related deaths have dropped to an average of 54 a year, from 112.

Middelaer’s mother, Laurel, said that she is humbled by the results.

“These results demonstrate that change is possible, and it is an achievement British Columbians can all be proud of. After decades of stagnant progress on reducing the number of preventable deaths caused by drinking and driving, as a community we’ve made significant and sustained changes,” she said.

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Under the IRP program, the penalties for having a 0.05, or above, blood alcohol level include the immediate seizure of a driver’s licence for at least three days, a three-day vehicle impoundment, and $200 administrative penalty.

Drivers that have a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or above are faced with the immediate seizure of their licence, a 30-day vehicle impoundment and a $500 administrative penalty.

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