Quebec drivers convicted of impaired driving twice in 10 years will now be required to blow into a breathalyzer every time they start a car- for the rest of their lives.
Their licence will be branded so any police officer will know to inspect the drivers ignition for an interlock device- a piece of equipment that prevents that vehicle from turning on if the drivers estimated blood alcohol concentration is above the legal limit.
Andrew Murie, CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada, commended the province for the change.
"When you compare it to other provinces, nobody else has done anything like this," Murie said. "It would be the toughest interlock legislation, not only in Canada but globally." The new regulation was added to the province's Highway Safety Code when it was overhauled in 2018 and goes into effect just in time for the holidays.
A driver with a restricted licence cannot use any car that does not have the device installed, said Mario Vaillancourt, spokesperson for Quebec's automobile insurance board (SAAQ). Getting caught without an interlock device will lead to a three-month licence suspension and a $1,500 fine, he said. In addition, the vehicle they're driving will be impounded for 30 days or more, depending on the circumstances. Among the other penalties that come with a second conviction, this licence restriction includes an immediate seizure of the vehicle and impoundment for 90 days, imprisonment and a licence suspension for at least two years.
Previously, interlock devices could be installed for life on a second offence if there were aggravating factors such as refusal to co-operate with police or if the motorist's blood alcohol level was double the legal limit. Third-time offenders also faced the lifetime restriction. According to Andrew Murie, interlock devices have proven to be one of the best weapons against impaired driving, especially with repeat offenders.
Quebec's Ministry of Transport says from 2013 to 2017, alcohol-related crashes killed an average of 100 people annually. That's on top of the approximately 220 serious injuries and 1,800 minor injuries. "Although road safety is improving in Quebec, accidents caused by drinking and driving are still causing too many deaths each year," Transport Minister François Bonnardel said in a statement Thursday. He said this legislation sends a clear message to motorists and repeat offenders that "driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs is unacceptable."