Having one for the road will soon get you off the road a lot longer
By ROB LAMBERTI, SUN MEDIA
Drivers caught with .05% alcohol in their blood face stiffer penalties starting Friday.
Drivers who fall in the "warn zone" -- between .05 and less than .08 -- currently face a 12-hour licence suspension, but the new changes call for a graduated increase in penalties, including the notification of insurance companies.
A first offence will see drivers lose their licence for three days with a $150 fee to reinstate it. The second time, their licence is suspended for seven days and they must take an alcohol education program.
The third time, drivers are suspended for 30 days, get an ignition interlock -- requiring a breath test on turning the key -- and must undergo another alcohol education program.
A fourth offence means a repeat of the 30-day suspension, and a doctor's note is required showing the driver is capable of getting behind the wheel.
On the eve of the changes, the Ontario Community Council on Impaired Driving kicked off its annual "Arrive Alive, Drive Sober" campaign yesterday at Queen's Park.
"People need to be reminded they have alternatives to drinking and driving," Ontario Transport Minister Jim Bradley said against a backdrop of a hearse, an ambulance, police cruiser and a cab.
About a quarter of all fatal accidents in Ontario are impaired-related, Bradley said. Drivers in the "warn zone" are seven times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than a driver who didn't drink, he said.
Other changes to be implemented this summer will include zero blood-alcohol tolerance for all drivers under the age of 21, Bradley said.
OPP Sgt. Dave Woodford said the changes focus on people who think they're still able to drive despite having a drink or two, he said.
"What we've been trying to tell you ... there's no amount of alcohol that is (considered) safe consumption in relation to a vehicle and this is a great response to that," Toronto Sgt. Tim Burrows said.
The 12-hour suspension was a good tool against impaired drivers, but it failed to keep track of how many times someone was stopped, he said.