|Accuracy paramount with new .05 legislation|
|Local Content - Editorial|
|Written by production|
|Thursday, 05 July 2012 14:26|
It isn’t a stretch to suggest that for some citizens, the province’s new alcohol-related driving legislation coming into effect on Sept. 1 won’t be met with a ticker-tape parade and spontaneous celebrations.
For others, perhaps those who have seen the often tragic effects of mixing alcohol and driving first hand, the new laws might not go far enough.
The controversial legislation targeting drivers with a blood-alcohol level exceeding .05 milligrams per cent with harsher penalties, vehicle seizures and suspensions has been a hot-button topic for Albertans since it was introduced and passed in the legislature last year.
Just how it will function in practice has been open to some criticism in the interim, especially with stories emanating from B.C., where similar legislation was passed and has been in effect for some time.
In that province, questions over the precise accuracy of the devices used in determining a person’s blood-alcohol reading have been raised, among other issues.
Officers of the Taber/Vauxhall RCMP have done training on the device and are gearing up for this fall when the new legislation will take effect and drivers and citizens alike will witness the new structures in practice.
Representatives of the restaurant and bar industry have attacked the legislation as too strict to allow even one casual drink before driving, either at a meal or at the end of a work day.
These individuals have attempted to suggest this is a ridiculous assertion which will eat into the profits of bars and restaurants which depend upon patronage, especially if the average patron is too afraid to wet their whistle even an hour before driving.
These same individuals, and other concerned citizens, have also suggested the legislation is targeting the wrong individuals, unfairly slapping indirect fines and vehicle seizures on those drivers who are clearly not a danger to others on the road.
Whether or not that assertion is true or false has been a matter of much debate in the province during the discussion of the bill and in the months following.
Many have suggested that heaping even stiffer penalties on repeat offenders and those with multiple impaired driving offences would more effectively help curb alcohol-related accidents and fatalities and keep Alberta’s highways safer.
That assertion also remains open to some criticism, especially considering that the real problem offenders will likely be found on the road whether or not they have been suspended or are in possession of a valid driver’s licence — or if there are more draconian penalties. Of course, that has little to do with drivers sporting a blood-alcohol level between .05 and .08 milligrams per cent — which has been just more powder for the cannon from the critic’s perspective.
Although questions have remained, and many Albertans are still less than enthusiastic, others with good reason have had little sympathy for the casual drinker, or those who have consumed alcohol to the point of a .05 reading or beyond and then decided to drive. Alternatives to driving do exist, especially in more urban centres. As for rural areas, these alternatives might not always be available. But in all cases, is it not incumbent upon a driver to take some responsibility for their actions prior to driving? Most reasonable people would answer in the affirmative.
Still, it will be the job of law enforcement to implement and use the legislation in a proper manner and remain within certain black and white boundaries, or the new laws could be fielding even heavier criticism after Sept. 1. And if there is any truth to allegations surrounding the accuracy of devices used in the enforcement of these laws, especially given the potential penalties involved for drivers, a media campaign or even an investigation into the matter might be warranted.
This might be prudent if only to clearly dispel any remaining questions for those who might decide that the legislation is not enforceable, and simply choose to ignore it — and all of the consequences that might entail.
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