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Digging Deeper: Do stiffer penalties translate into fewer impaired drivers on Sask. roads?

The Province

REGINA – Toronto Man Marco Muzzo was sentenced to an unprecedented 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to a drinking and driving crash that killed three children and their grandfather.

The CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Andy Murie, weighed in on whether the sentence could deter impaired drivers in Saskatchewan which maintains the highest rates of drinking and driving incidents in Canada.

Click to play video 'Digging Deeper – Impaired Driving' Digging Deeper – Impaired Driving
Digging Deeper – Impaired Driving – Apr 1, 2016

A: What message does the Muzzo sentence send?

Q: It is the longest sentence in Canada for a non repeat offender so, it does move the bar upwards. It will allow Crown attorneys across the country to use this case. I mean the judge was very clear in this case, she made it very clear that sentencing for impaired drivers in this country need to go up.

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When Saskatchewan changed their legislation years ago provincially, they basically took a middle of the road approach.

A: In your opinion does the sentence deter drivers across country, including here in Saskatchewan, from getting behind the wheel impaired?

A: No it doesn’t. Unfortunately long penalties do not deter impaired drivers because they don’t even think they’re going to get caught, never mind injure someone or kill someone. If you’re looking at deterring impaired drivers you’ve got to focus on the front end. What things will stop someone from getting in the car when they’re impaired in the first place? That’s the focus of our organization.

Q: Saskatchewan maintains the highest numbers of impaired driving incidents in the country. What can be done to tackle these high numbers?

A: When Saskatchewan changed their legislation years ago provincially they basically took a middle of the road approach. They did not follow British Columbia in impounding vehicles at the provincial level on the first offense. They chose to wait until the second offence and we told them that won’t be very effective. If you’re going to do your job as a politician you need to follow the research and best practices and unfortunately that didn’t happen in Saskatchewan.

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It’s a mindset. Can it change? Absolutely.

Q:  On the topic of politicians, it came to light that a number of candidates running in the provincial election have a DUI conviction. What message does that send?

A: Here is my problem with it: If you’ve been a former convicted impaired driver you’re probably going to be a lot softer on impaired drivers then your colleagues who’ve never been one are. That’s just normal human practice. So, when you get the need to step up and make tough laws about impaired driving they’ll say, ‘well, I wouldn’t want that to happen to me and I’ve been convicted.’ That’s the problem with that type of candidate.

Q: How can Saskatchewan tackle the tolerance that often surrounds impaired driving?

A: The thing is in the provinces like Saskatchewan, you have to start asking yourself the tough questions. If you see  a person sitting there and drinking way too much and you know they are going to drive, why are you not asking the question? It’s a mindset. Can it change? Absolutely.