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Impaired Driving


Photo: car keys

Impaired driving, which means driving while your ability is affected by alcohol or drugs, is a crime under the Criminal Code of Canada. If convicted, you can lose your licence, be fined, or spend time in jail. Your vehicle does not even have to be moving; you can be charged if you are impaired behind the wheel, even if you have not started to drive.

Drinking and Driving

Drinking and driving is a deadly combination. One drink can reduce your ability to concentrate and react to things that happen suddenly while you are driving. The more alcohol in your blood, the more difficulty you have judging distances and reacting to sudden hazards on the road. To make matters even worse, your vision may become blurred.

Drugs and Driving

Any drug that changes your mood, or the way you see and feel, will affect the way you drive. This is not only true for illegal drugs. There are prescription drugs and some over-the-counter drugs that can also impair your driving ability.

Tips to remember

  • If you are planning on drinking, plan not to drive.
  • Ask your doctor about side effects if you use prescription medication or get allergy shots.
  • Read the information on the package of any over-the-counter medicine, including allergy and cold remedies.
  • Drugs and alcohol together can combine to impair your driving even more drastically; ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Remember, fatigue and stress will also affect your ability to drive.

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Consequences of Drinking and Driving

Ontario leads the way in combating drinking and driving through some of the toughest laws and programs in North America.

Roadside Licence Suspension

Fully-licensed drivers will face immediate roadside licence suspension for:

  • refusing a breath test.
  • registering a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05 or more (this means there is 50 milligrams of alcohol in every 100 millilitres of blood).

As of August 1, 2010, if you are a fully licensed driver who is 21 and under or a novice driver and are caught with any alcohol in your blood, you will receive an immediate 24-hour roadside driver licence suspension and, if convicted, you will face a fine of $60-$500 and a 30-day licence suspension.

How to install a rear-facing seat for infantsOntario's Zero BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) for Drivers 21 and Under

Novice drivers of all ages in the Graduated Licensing System (GLS) must also maintain a zero BAC while driving. As of August 1, 2010, if you are a novice driver and are caught with any amount of alcohol in your blood, you will receive an immediate 24-hour roadside driver licence suspension, and if convicted, will face a fine of $60-$500 and will receive a suspension period as per the Novice Driver Escalating Sanction scheme, up to and including cancellation of the novice licence. You will also have to return to the start of GLS.

Consequences for impaired driving are serious: you can lose your licence, be fined, or spend time in jail.

You don't have to be over the Criminal Code blood alcohol limit of 0.08 to face serious consequences.

As of May 1, 2009, Ontario has taken measures to help take more drinking drivers off the roads. Drivers who register a BAC from 0.05 to 0.08 (known as the "warn range") lose their licence at roadside for 3, 7 or 30 days. Consequences also get tougher for repeat occurrences.

Convicted Impaired Drivers

If you drive impaired, and your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is more than 0.08, or you fail or refuse to comply with alcohol or drug testing, you can be convicted under the Criminal Code. Individuals convicted for impaired driving offences face penalties under Canada's Criminal Code and Ontario's Highway Traffic Act. Upon conviction, consequences include an additional suspension period, alcohol education and treatment programs, Ignition Interlock installation and fines.

Driving-related Criminal Code convictions remain on a driver's record for at least 10 years.

Vehicle Impoundment

Photo: locked gate of area for storing impounded cars

Under Ontario's Vehicle Impoundment Program, drivers who are caught driving while their licence is suspended for a Criminal Code driving conviction will have the vehicle they are driving impounded for a minimum of 45 days.

Effective December 1, 2010, drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08, or who fail to comply with breath testing, face an immediate seven-day vehicle impoundment at roadside. Also effective December 1, 2010, a seven-day vehicle impoundment applies to drivers who get behind the wheel of a vehicle without an ignition interlock device in violation of such a condition on their licence. There is no ability for the vehicle owner to appeal these seven-day impoundments.

Regardless of whether the vehicle is rented, leased or loaned to a friend or family member, the vehicle will be impounded. The vehicle owner will be liable for all towing and impoundment costs.

To verify a valid driver's licence through the Ministry of Transportation

Vehicle owners are responsible for taking all reasonable steps to ensure that every person who drives their vehicle has a valid driver's licence. This includes making sure the driver does not have an ignition interlock condition on their licence if the vehicle is not equipped with an ignition interlock device.

Individuals who drive while under suspension for a Criminal Code driving offence face stiff fines ranging from $5,000 to $50,000.

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