Canada’s new impaired driving laws kick in Tuesday, giving law enforcement new powers when it comes to interacting with drivers.
Alcohol-related impaired driving laws will be updated in the Criminal Code of Canada as of Dec. 18, in order to become comparable with drug-impaired driving laws that were reformed earlier this year.
Changes to both drug and alcohol impaired driving come as part of the former Bill C-46, which aims to make Canada’s laws “amongst the strongest in the world.”
WATCH: Mandatory impaired driving laws to hit the roads before the holidays
Mandatory alcohol screening
The new laws will give police officers the authority to demand breathalyzer tests from any driver they pull over. Previously, officers could only test drivers if they had a reasonable suspicion the person was impaired. Any driver who refuses to take the test can be charged.
WATCH: Challenge coming for new drunk driving laws
These stronger laws are similar to ones in several other countries around the world, such as Australia, Denmark, France and Germany. In Ireland, mandatory screening reduced the number of road deaths by about 40 per cent in the first four years it was enforced.
No more ‘bolus drinking defence’
Before Dec. 18, drivers could use the “bolus drinking defence,” arguing that they consumed alcohol just before driving and it was not absorbed yet.
The new law eliminates this defence, by making it illegal to be at or over the alcohol limit within two hours of being behind the wheel.
The new law also bumps up the maximum penalties for many alcohol-impaired driving offences.
Formerly, the mandatory minimum fines were: $1,000 for first offence, 30 days imprisonment for second offence, and 120 days in jail for a third offence.
These are the penalties now:
WATCH: York Regional Police begins naming drivers charged with impaired driving
While the new laws have been welcomed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada, several groups have raised concerns.
Toronto-based lawyer Michael Engel, who often defends those charged with impaired driving, said the new rules are a big change that raise concerns about baseless searches.
“This is a radical departure from previous law, which insulated people against warrantless searches without probable cause,” he said.
Civil rights organizations have also sounded alarms about the new rules, with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association expressing concern that mandatory alcohol screening will unfairly affect racial minorities who are disproportionately singled out by cops for traffic stops.
WATCH: Drunk driver uses tragedy to save lives
Last year, there were more than 69,000 police-reported impaired-driving incidents — about 3,500 were related to drugs.
In 2016, there were more than 70,000 such incidents, and 3,000 were drug-related.
According to federal statistics, an average of almost four people die in Canada daily due to impaired driving.
WATCH: New, tougher impaired laws are now in effect in Canada when it comes to breathalyzer tests. Jill Croteau has more on what you can expect if you get pulled over.
— With files from The Canadian Press
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.