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Federal justice minister’s drunk-driving campaign is misplaced

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There is no denying the fact that drunk driving can be dangerous. There is a risk of serious accident and injury for individuals driving over 80, and federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay is ostensibly using that risk of danger to potentially push for random roadside breath tests. Under the influence of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada, MacKay is looking at expanding police powers to conduct indiscriminate and random testing of Canadian citizens, something that would only make sense if drunk driving were a widespread problem.

Instead, drunk driving has been falling fairly steadily across Canada since the 1980s. In fact, between the mid-1990s and 2009, the number of fatal drunk driving accidents fell by 500 annually. With these kinds of wonderful statistics, it seems unwise to impinge upon Canadians’ rights by randomly testing them for alcohol.

If the justice minister is truly looking to improve safety on Canada’s roads, he should focus on distracted drivers. As one researcher has noted, teenagers may not be drinking every day, but they always have their phones on them. As it is, the Ontario Provinicial Police have had 15 more fatalities caused by distracted driving in the province than they have had caused by drunk driving.

Unfortunately, the drunk driving lobby is quite strong and it is very possible that Canadian drivers could see random testing in the near future. If they do, it will be all the more important to consult a criminal defence lawyer if they are pulled over and charged. With the possible uptick in drunk driving arrests, there will be a greater need to seek help defending against potentially serious charges.

Source: Maclean’s, “How the war on drunk driving distracts from the real danger,” 21 Oct. 2013

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