New laws which took effect in September 2010 have reduced by one half the number of alcohol related traffic fatalities in British Columbia. The Ministry of Public Safety and of the Solicitor General together announced the figures which quelled any lingering opposition to the tough impaired-driving policies. According to those figures traffic deaths related to drunk driving numbered 31 for the period from October 2010 to April 2011. Over the past five years, the average number of alcohol related fatalities on the road had been 61 during that same period.
Premier Christy Clark told reporters that the numbers prove how strict punishment policies are working in the province. Those new laws empower police to hand out stiff roadside penalties for impaired drivers. Drivers who refuse to submit to a breath test or whose blood alcohol content exceeds .08% can face immediate 90 day driving suspension, a $500 fine and 30 day vehicle impoundment. A new warning category was also established for driver's whose blood alcohol content ranged from .05% to the legally criminal .08%. Driver's whose BAC scored in that range are subject to a three day driving suspension and a $200 fine if it is a first time offence. To get driving privileges restored after either type of suspension could cost the driver upwards of $4,000.
It isn't only the lawmakers who tout numbers to back up the success of stricter roadside policies. Police agree that the regulations have been effective. In fact, the RCMP Superintendent was quoted as saying he had never seen anything that was as successful as the current policies for reducing alcohol-related traffic fatalities. Police figures say that in the first six months of 2011 there have been seven drunk driving deaths compared to the five year average of 21 deaths during the same period.
The stunning success of the regulations has quieted rumblings of discontent from restaurant and pub owners who complained about significant (30%) declines as a result of the policies. Those rumblings initially found sympathetic ears and plans were being made to launch counter-campaigns to soothe the public disinclination to drink & drive. Plans to back-pedal the policy have halted in their tracks after the most recent statistics however.
Formerly disgruntled restaurateurs now say that customers have found ways to accommodate the stricter environment by accessing public transit, designating drivers and using taxis. Not so surprising since RCMP figures say that from September 2010 - April 2011 over 10,000 cars have been impounded for alcohol related issues along with 20,000 occasions of 24hour driving suspensions.
The success of the new regulations has surprised everyone. The province initially set a goal of reducing drunk driving deaths by 35% in three years. Given the overwhelming success in terms of lives saved it is hard to imagine anyone mounting any kind of successful opposition. Or wanting to do so.