Given the recent focus on drug-impaired driving with the legalization of recreational cannabis, new impaired driving laws, related to alcohol, have possibly fallen off the radar.
Starting on Dec. 18, stricter drunk driving laws will come into effect.
Under the new changes, law enforcement across the country will be able to demand a breathalyzer test even if a motorist is showing no signs of alcohol impairment.
Up until now, police officers have needed reasonable grounds to conduct a breath test such as bloodshot eyes, slurring, the smell of alcohol, a driver stumbling or admission of drinking.
“The federal government is enacting new legislation under Bill-C46 that will now allow police to do roadside screening breath tests for alcohol impairment to anyone operating a motor vehicle,” Saskatoon police Staff Sgt. Patrick Barbar said.
WATCH BELOW: Bill C-46 helps gives Canada a strong regime against impaired driving
Authorities said the new mandatory alcohol screening laws will be especially helpful at collisions, where a driver may not be exhibiting obvious signs of impairment, and welcome stricter laws in a province with historically high rates of impaired driving.
“Studies have shown that countries that have implemented alcohol screening, that they’ve actually managed to reduce death rates by 25 per cent,” Barbar said.
Research also shows that up to 50 per cent of drivers who would blow over the legal limit aren’t caught during roadside check stops.
According to Barbar, variables for missing a drunk driver include the time of year, if the driver has masked the smell of alcohol with gum or smoking, it could even be as simple as the officer having a cold.
One criminal defence lawyer in Saskatoon said if you’re impaired, you shouldn’t be behind the wheel, but that this new law goes overboard violating the rights and freedoms of citizens complying with the law.
“I think this provision that is being proposed now it goes too far,” Andrew Mason said.
“It remains for the courts to have a look at it but I think there’s certainly a basis for questioning whether it’s constitutionally valid.”
Earlier this month, Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said she’s confident the new law doesn’t violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the intent to save lives is an “incredibly justifiable purpose.”
WATCH BELOW: Feds say new drunk driving laws come into effect on Dec. 18
She was also fully aware of the hurdles ahead when introducing this new law.
“There is absolutely no question that it would be challenged in court,” Mason added.