October 31, 2016 4:35 pm
Updated: October 31, 2016 8:47 pm

Saskatchewan getting tougher on impaired driving with new laws

WATCH ABOVE: It's a familiar statistic now. Saskatchewan has the highest impaired driving rates in the country, claiming 53 lives last year. Today new legislation was introduced that brings the stiffest penalties in Canada for blood alcohol content as low as 0.04. Provincial affairs reporter David Baxter has the story.

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With Saskatchewan having the highest percentage of impaired drivers in the country, the province is now increasing the punishment for people caught behind the wheel.

On Monday, the Ministry of Justice and SGI announced changes to Saskatchewan’s impaired driving laws. These include:

  • Add a three-day vehicle seizure for experienced drivers who are charged for the first time with having a blood alcohol content (BAC) between 0.04 to 0.08.
  • Apply zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol to drivers 21 and under; and
  • Strengthen ignition interlock laws to be the most effective in Canada, by extending mandatory ignition interlock to drivers who register a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) over .16 or refuse to provide a breath sample (first offence – two years; second offence – five years; third and subsequent offence – 10 years).

In 2015, Saskatchewan had nearly 1,200 impaired driving accidents, killing 53 people and injuring 578 others.According to SGI, 39 per cent of all alcohol-related collisions in Saskatchewan in 2015 involved drivers with BAC lower than 0.08.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan has highest percentage of impaired drivers

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“Drinking and driving has taken far too many lives in this province and people need to get the message that it is never acceptable, period,” Minister responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance Joe Hargrave said.

“We support these changes,” MADD Canada CEO Andrew Murie said.

“MADD is happy to see Saskatchewan strengthening consequences for people who continue to drive impaired. Alberta and B.C. experienced significant decreases in impaired driving fatalities after implementing vehicle seizures for low BAC drivers. We’re confident this measure will also save lives in Saskatchewan.”

The province is also investing $800,000 in 32 more automated license plate readers to help police catch disqualified drivers. Sixty police officers will be dedicated to traffic safety enforcement, targeting problematic roadways and intersections in the central and southeast parts of the province with a focus on impaired driving.

SGI will also be providing $500,000 for law enforcement to increase check stops targeting impaired driving.

Both the governing Saskatchewan Party and opposition NDP agreed to quickly pass the legislation. The changes will take effect on January 1, 2017.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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