NB toughens penalties for drunk drivers – what a joke!

Ok. Before I get into the big news, let’s do a recount of where things currently stand in New Brunswick:

  • 0.08 (80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood) is the legal limit.
  • The minimum mandatory sentence for an impaired driver charged under the Criminal Code is a fine of $1,150 and a mandatory one-year driving prohibition.
  • A level between .05 and .08 will get a driver a suspended license for 24 hours.
  • Recently, some judges in NB have begun issuing higher fines and even jail time (3 to 10 DAYS) for first offenders of impaired driving based on aggravating factors like elevated blood-alcohol readings and dangerous driving.
  • There are no set minimum sentences for multiple impaired driving offenders.
  • There is no minimum sentence for impaired driving causing bodily injury or impaired driving causing death.
  • The maximum sentence for impaired driving causing bodily harm is 10 year imprisonment and for impaired driving causing death its life imprisonment. However provincial court judges are BOUND to sentence in accordance with precedents set by their respective province’s highest court. In New Brunswick, that is the New Brunswick Court of Appeal, which has set a precedent of three years imprisonment for impaired driving causing death.

So…now for the big, fall-off-your-chair news on how my glorious province, New Brunswick, is setting the trend for Canada with tougher penalties for drunk drivers…hold onto your hats…here it is:

As of June 24, 2011, drivers who blow between .05 and .08 will receive a week-long suspended license (increased from a 24-hour suspension).

WOW <<being sarcastic here>>!!!

Wait, it gets better. The registrar of the motor vehicle would not be informed of the suspension, and the information would not be recorded on the driver’s abstract, however records of short-term suspensions will be kept by local police forces. Meaning, if a guy is driving his wife’s car and he gets stopped, blows .06, his license would be suspended for seven days but his wife, as the owner of the vehicle, would never be notified nor would his insurance company nor would that be considered a first offense if he were say charged with a more serious impaired driving crime later.

And I agree…of course it wouldn’t be recorded or the registrar notified; essentially, the person wouldn’t have technically BROKEN any laws considering that the legal limit is .08 and over.

I mean, I am not a total moron. I can see the “intention” behind this law to deter those from having those extra few casual drinks, perhaps it’ll serve to catch and deter those who are more “relaxed” with their ideas around impaired driving etc. And I agree, it’s a “step” in the right direction but COME ON; it’s not nearly enough and, in my opinion, it certainly doesn’t quality as “toughen penalties” for drunk drivers. These drivers aren’t what we consider legally drunk!!! The entire thing falls flat for me!

More honestly, I feel like it targets those people who are just having one or two beers with dinner; those who are trying to be responsible; those who aren’t out there driving hammered and causing accidents resulting in bodily harm or death. Let’s be honest, the people at .05 to .08 aren’t the ones passing out at the wheel or veering all over the road.

Add to that, why are we punishing people who are not actually BREAKING the law. I mean, .08 is the “legal” limit…so…if we want to start targeting people with a limit between .05 and .08 shouldn’t we just lower the legal limit to .05? Or better yet, how about zero tolerance?

I don’t get it. This isn’t a “crack down” on drunk driving. It feels more like a “won’t-piss-anyone-off/make-the-current-government-look-like-it’s-doing-something-when-it’s-really-doing-nothing” kind of move that they expect to garner them much love and appreciation. Well not from this camp!

When I think of the time, energy, and money invested to implement this one relatively meaningless tactic, it saddens and disgusts me. And to anyone who’s lost someone to impaired driving, and gone through the joke of a justice system, this is almost a slap in the face. Let’s stop wasting time and get on really toughening up laws that could see real change!

As usual, I am left asking myself, when is my provincial and/or federal government going to take impaired driving and the injuries and loss of life seriously? Right now, impaired driving causing death is the LEADING cause of criminal death in our country (nearly doubling our homicide rates). Right now, 4 Canadians every single day die in an impaired driving related accident – 4 people every day die at the hands of a drunk driver! When is that going to sink in? When is our government going to realize that driving is a PRIVILEGE and not a right and that they have a responsibility to ensure our roads are safe!

I did read in the Daily Gleaner newspaper article (link below) that our Minister of Public Safety is going to be having “discussions with stakeholders later this year on reviewing the province’s rules on drunk driving.” I’ll have to find out how to get in on those discussions.

What do you think? Is the NB government really getting tough on drunk driving?

For more information: check out the NB toughens penalties for drunk drivers PDF of the news article as it appeared in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner on Saturday May 28, 2011.

And be sure to read the Making drunk drivers pay PDF. It’s a great news article my sister-in-law was involved with on the need for tougher legislation. It appeared in the New Brunswick Telegraph Journal on May 27, 2011.



  1. Pauline Leblanc says:

    Lost my son on April 23 ,2010 due to two drunk drivers racing, my son was on his way to join us at the hospital for the birth of are first grand child, when just in front of the hospital, as my son was crossing in his car, they hit him. He was only 16 yrs old! The passages of the first car stayed at the seen but refused the breathalyzer, the second car passages took off. The first charged was given is license back weeks by the transport bord.
    The trial will be in April 2011, and all I ear from official is , don’t expect justice !!!! My question is, what are we paying for with are tax dollars, if we can’t expect justice then why have laws, or for that matter a trial.

    • Pauline, I share in your pain and your deep frustration and anger. I know all too well how lacking our justice system is. In our case, the prosecution came to us and told us that IF we even won, the driver would likely only get 3 years in jail (and be eligible for parole in 6 months) and said something like “well, it’s not like any sentence would feel like justice…” as if that was some kind of adequate excuse?!?! I am disgusted that there is this seamingly “relaxed” attitude about it – and this sense that we should all be happy if a drunk driver gets “something”…

      It’s not right, it’s not fair and it’s downright untrue! For us, there was a fair and just sentence…had the driver been sentenced to 25 years in prison that would have definitely felt like a small bit of justice instead of the HUGE SLAP IN THE FACE that the current system is. It sucks….The only thing I have come to realize is all I can do is to continue to advocate however I can for longer, harsher sentences and better preventation strategies!!! In the meantime, I pray for you and your family and wish you healing and comfort…keep me posted on how the trail goes…hugs!

  2. Hartford, if you can be patient while a¨culture¨changes from one of tolerence for drinking and driving to abhorence of the act.Technology to prevent an impaired driver from starting a motor vehicle will better serve our public safety, but until that is in place in all our motor vehicles, education, effective laws with accompanying punishment is what we have and I support our government in the steps they are taking. We disagree that a person has to be falling down drunk and at the wheel of a motor vehicle before they pose a threat to themselves and those in their paths. The nature of the drug alcohol is to act as a depressant, meaning judgement and bodily functions such as vision and reflexes are impaired even with one drink. You may be interested to learn of the efforts found on http://www.dadds.org. Pauline and Hartford, I too have lost a loved one to this crime. My parents were involved in a crash in 1962 when struck by a car whose driver was witnessed to be under the influence of alcohol. I sincerely hope you will accept my condolences for each of your losses.

    • Hi David, thank you very much for your comment. I appreciate your thoughts and sentiments and thank you for passing along the website. I look forward to reading and absorbing all the information it has to offer. I await with bated breath for the day when technology enables us to prevent an impaired driver from even starting their automobile; a dream come true. I also agree that there are many varying levels of impaired, even from one drink, and that any level of “impaired” shouldn’t be tolerated. I actually believe Canada and every province should move to a zero limit. My intent in my post wasn’t to imply that the new law enacted wasn’t of any use, I recognize that it is; it has value; it’s a step in the right direction. However, for me, it fell short on the kind of “tough” laws that I think are needed to create that culture change. With four people dying on our roads every single day, and 190 injured, due to an imapired driver, my patience is lost. Just my thoughts…while I also respect yours! I look forward to our ongoing conversation…

    • My deepest condolences on the loss of your loved ones David – to lose your parents must have been a devastation I can’t even begin to imagine.

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