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26 recommendations made to reduce Sask. highway fatalities

REGINA – A committee set up by the Saskatchewan government has made 26 recommendations in an effort to reduce traffic fatalities and improve road safety in the province.

Among the recommendations made by the traffic safety committee were stiffer fines and penalties for impaired drivers, making holding cell phones illegal while driving and lengthening vehicle seizures and impoundments.

Last year, at least 162 people were killed on Saskatchewan highways, the highest number of recorded deaths in a year.

The committee was set up this past spring to respond to the increase in traffic fatalities.

Darryl Hickie, who headed up the committee, said members focused on three main themes: additional enforcement, deterrence through stronger punitive measures and more public awareness.

That would include stronger penalties for impaired driving, including drug impairment.

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Under the recommendations, an experienced driver with a blood alcohol level (BAC) at or above .08 would have their licence suspended immediately for a first offence up to court disposition.

The vehicle would also be impounded for 30 days, while drivers at or over .16 BAC or who refused a test would have their vehicle impounded for 60 days.

Mandatory ignition locks would also be required.

A first offence for drivers between .04 and below .08 BAC would receive a 72-hour license suspension and would have to complete a driving without impairment course within 90 days,

Drivers up to 19 years of age and those with a graduated driver’s licence would receive an immediate 60-day licence suspension and have the vehicle seized for three days.

Although they agreed with the 26 recommendations, the opposition NDP says one component is missing.

Danielle Chartier says short-term vehicle impoundment should be made mandatory in the province after Alberta and B.C. implemented a three-day impoundment the first time a driver is caught with a .05 BAC.

Chartier said since those provinces brought in that measure, alcohol related deaths dropped by half in each province.

There would also be tougher penalties for distracted driving.

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Holding and/or using a cell phone or any electronic device would be made illegal if the recommendations are adopted.

A second distracted driving offence within a 12-month period could result in a vehicle being seized and impounded for seven days.

The committee also wants more traffic police on the highways.

It is recommending the hiring of up to 120 more officers over a four-year period who would be dedicated to traffic enforcement, with the majority assigned to the RCMP.

The committee also recommended making booster seats mandatory for children less than 145 centimetres tall and weighing less than 36 kilograms and implementing e-ticketing.

The report has been tabled in the legislature.

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