Four years ago, the manager of a bar in Ontario rushed out to the parking lot to alert police that a patron had just left in his vehicle and was intoxicated. When the officers caught up with the individual a few minutes later he protested “I ‘just’ had a few beers”. The man was given a roadside breathalyser test with a reading of .100, .020 over the legal limit of .080 and is taken into custody. However, roadside breathalyser results are not permissible in court as they can be anywhere from 15%-25% off. So 45 minutes later at the (back) station a second, much more accurate breathalyser test is administered (whose results are admissible in court) and the reading is way over the legal limit. At his trial, the man’s lawyer brought in two toxicologists who testified that it takes anywhere from 15-30 minutes for alcohol to make its way into the blood steam and so since the man had only been driving his car for a few minutes after “just” consuming a few beers, he was therefore not legally drunk while driving. The judge agreed and acquitted the person of impaired driving.
It is called the “drinking and dashing” defense and has been used successfully in a number of Ontario courtrooms. But no longer. Beginning in 2019, it is now illegal in Ontario to have a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of .080 or higher within two hours of a driver being stopped by the police (no matter when you started drinking). In other words, no longer can the “drinking and dashing” defense be used. And not only that, but police officers have also been given the green light to stop any car at any time for any reason (without previously required probable cause) and order the driver to take a breathalyser test on the spot. And if you refuse to do so? It is an automatic $2,000 fine.
Why such strict new rules? Because three out of every four traffic fatalities are caused by impaired driving. And in North America – each hour of each day of each week of each year, someone is killed by a drunk behind the wheel, totally over 10,000 lives lost annually.
But here’s the bottom line? The very same government cracking down on drunk driving also announced that all beer, wine and liquor stores in the province will now also be open seven days a week from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. for Ontarion’s imbibing pleasure. What in the world were they thinking (or drinking)?