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New impaired driving laws

The Act, which will come into effect later this year, will introduce immediate roadside penalties to get impaired drivers off the roads. As stated in a media release by the Alberta Government, “Implementing an approach with immediate and severe consequences has been proven to deter impaired driving. With these changes, Alberta will have among the toughest impaired driving laws in the country”. The Act will change how the justice department penalizes impaired drivers and handles traffic ticket disputes by taking them out of the courts, thus freeing up police resources and court times. “We have heard loud and clear from Albertans that they are frustrated with cases dropped because of the court backlog we inherited from the previous government. This legislation proposes smart administrative changes that will ensure our courts and police can keep our communities safe by focusing on serious and violent crimes”, stated Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, at the June 4 Legislative Assembly. 


Bill 21 received royal assent on July 23, 2020 and will get rolled out in three separate phases. Phase one will strengthen the administrative penalties for impaired driving and create an adjudication branch through SafeRoad AB, with a mandate to resolve impaired driving-related offences under the Traffic Safety Act. The first portion will be in place by the end of 2020. Phase two, which will be enforced by the end of 20121, will expand the adjudication branch’s jurisdiction to include all other contraventions of the Traffic Safety Act, except those that result in bodily harm or death. The final phase’s timeline is yet to be determined and will depend on the full completion of phase two. The last phase has more to do with expanding the administrative adjudication process to be adopted for use by any regulated area of provincial jurisdiction.


Bill 21 will introduce the Immediate Roadside Sanction program with serious, immediate, and escalating consequences for impaired driving. The crackdown will see fines going up to $2,000, increased vehicle seizure up to 30 days for certain offences, and mandatory education programs enforced for repeat offenders. In addition to the above increases, repeat offenders will also face increased driver’s license suspensions and expanded mandatory ignition interlock system for their vehicle, plus face prosecution in court. Under Bill 21, novice drivers are to have zero blood alcohol and drug concentrations. The same law will apply for all commercial drivers as well. They, too, are to have zero blood alcohol and drug concentrations while on the job. 


The online ticket dispute system will be set up by late 2021, which will make it easier for Albertans to pay, request more time or dispute a ticket, thus freeing up court and police officers’ time to deal with more serious matters. Using this new system will remove almost two million tickets from the court system. While all impaired drivers will face immediate consequences from the roadside penalties, the government is also creating a faster way of resolving disputes to enhance public safety by keeping these drivers off the roads. Administrative adjudicators will handle the online system, and Albertans can expect their matter to be dealt with within 30 days and not have it tied up in the courts for months or years. Utilizing this new system will ensure impaired drivers are off the roads as soon as possible. 


“Impaired driving is a severe offence. I am proud Alberta is adopting a proven system that reduces impaired driving and impaired driving fatalities. We will get police back on the street to focus on fighting crime instead of bogged down in the courts,” stated Ric McIver, Minister of Transportation. 

Vicki Winger, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Whitecourt Press

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