Saskatchewan raises penalties for drunk drivers with children in their vehicle

The Saskatchewan government wants tougher penalties for people who drive drunk with children in their vehicle.

Proposed legislation has been introduced that would mean an immediate seven-day driving suspension on a first offence for someone driving with a blood-alcohol content of .04 or higher and with a child in the vehicle.  It would also apply if someone refuses to a field sobriety test or fails a field sobriety test.

The current roadside suspension is three days.

Repeat offenders would face a 30-day suspension, up from 21 days, for a second offence, while a third offence triggers a 120-day suspension, up from the current 90.

Impaired drivers who transport children will also have their vehicles seized for longer periods; first-time offenders will have their vehicles taken for seven days, up from the current three days and the time increases to 30 days for a second offence, up from seven days, and to 60 days for a third offence, up from 14 days.

“We think it’s going to drive a firmer message home,” Joe Hargrave, minister responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance, said Thursday at the legislature in Regina.  Hargrave said the move was already being considered when a tweet from a Regina police officer shocked people last month.

Const. Curtis Warnar with the traffic unit tweeted Sept. 27 that he pulled over an impaired driver who had a blood-alcohol content of four times the legal limit while driving kids to school that morning.  “Few calls over my 9 years of policing in Regina truly stick with bother me. Today was one of those days,” wrote Warnar.  “I don’t have the answer. I wish I did. I fear that people won’t get the message until it hits too close to home, but by then it’s too late.

Hargrave says that was an extreme case.  “But what could have happened to those kids, the thought just scares me,” said the minister.

Michelle Okere with MADD Canada says it’s important to have deterrents in place.  “We’re definitely supportive of strengthening laws around child endangerment, obviously understanding that much of the time, children under 16 really aren’t given a choice in the matter,” she said.

“We are hopeful this will be a deterrent for adults who are doing that.”

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