Ontario Announces Zero Tolerance to Prevent Drug-Impaired Driving

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

We’ve previously blogged about drug-impaired driving, and are now revisiting the topic in light of a recent announcement by the provincial Liberals.

On September 28, 2017, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced that commercial truckers, drivers 21 and under, and novice motorists will face stiff penalties if caught behind the wheel after using cannabis or alcohol.

This announcement was made in advance of the federal government’s plan to legalize recreational cannabis by July 2018.

WHAT IS ZERO TOLERANCE LEGISLATION?

Ontario is the first province or territory to publicize an extensive plan to regulate federally legalized cannabis. These new measures will be in addition to the penalties found under the Criminal Code of Canada for impaired driving convictions (ie. loss of licence, additional fines or incarceration).

Ontario’s zero tolerance legislation will include tougher laws against drug-impaired driving for young drivers aged 21 and under; novice drivers (G1, G2, M1 and M2 licence holders); and all commercial drivers.

Zero tolerance means that drivers should not get behind the wheel if they have any measurable presence of drugs or alcohol in their system as detected by an oral fluid screening device.. The federal government has promised to introduce a screening device and set thresholds for detecting the presence of cannabis in the near future.

PENALTIES, LICENCE SUSPENSIONS, AND OTHER CONSEQUENCES

Ontario’s new legislation will increase monetary penalties for drivers who fail or refuse to perform a sobriety test. It has been proposed that, for a first offence, young drivers and all G1, G2, M1 and M2 licence holders will face a three day suspension and a $250 fine.

For a second offence, these offenders will be subject to a week-long suspension and a $350 fine with all subsequent occurrences facing a 30-day suspension and a $450 fine.

Commercial drivers will also be subject to a zero tolerance policy and could face a three day suspension any time they are caught and fined up to $450.

All other drivers in Ontario who are found to be within the “warn range” with blood alcohol concentration between .05 and .08 or drug impaired and fail a roadside standardized field sobriety test could face up to 30 days licence suspension and up to $450 fines with subsequent occurrences.

Those drivers with blood-alcohol concentrate levels above .08, drug-impaired or who fail or refuse to submit to tests could face a 90-day suspension and $550 fines.

ADDITIONAL PENALTIES ANNOUNCED TO IMPROVE ROAD SAFETY 

Legislation will be introduced this fall in Ontario to improve road safety and deter careless and distracted driving.

A new offence will be added to Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act for careless driving causing death or bodily harm. This conviction would lead to a licence suspension of up to five years, fines of between $2,000 and $50,000, up to two years of incarceration and six demerit points.

Drivers who don’t yield to pedestrians would also see increased fines up to a maximum of $1,000.

In addition, fines for distracted driving (ie. using a cellphone while operating a vehicle) would increase from a maximum of $1,000 to up to $2,000 on a second conviction and up to $3,000 for third or subsequent incidents, as well as six demerit points for multiple offences. The first offence would also result in a three day licence suspension and if convicted for a third time would result in a 30 day licence suspension.

Drivers with a G1, G2, M1 or M2 licence who are convicted of three or more distracted driving offences would have their licence cancelled.

These new penalties will be the toughest consequences for repeated distracted driving offences across Canada.

If you have been charged with a driving offence, please call Affleck & Barrison LLP at 905-404-1947 or contact us online. We offer a free consultation and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.