Canadian Underwriter

Manitoba proposes stiffer penalties for high-risk drivers

June 5, 2015   by Canadian Underwriter

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Just two days after Ontario announced increased fines for distracted drivers, the province of Manitoba indicated that provincial high-risk drivers would also face stiffer consequences, including increased costs of up to $3,200, under proposed regulatory amendments.

Participation in Manitoba’s Ignition Interlock program would become mandatory for all convicted impaired drivers under proposed bill

On Tuesday, Ontario passed the Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act, which increased the maximum fine for distracted driving to $1,000 (from $500) and the minimum fine to $300 from $60. Among other items, the act also:

• Introduces demerit points for those convicted of distracted driving;

• Stipulates that a police officer can request that a driver surrender his or her licence if the driver is impaired by a drug or by a combination of a drug and alcohol;

• Requires motorists to slow down and move into another lane when approaching a stopped tow truck with its amber lights flashing;

The proposed amendments to the Highway Traffic Act and the Drivers and Vehicles Act announced on Thursday by Manitoba Attorney General Gord Mackintosh would see “drivers with already poor driving records paying as much as $3,200 in additional costs,” Mackintosh said in a press release on Thursday.

“The introduction of the Safer Roads Act sends a strong message that dangerous and illegal driving behaviours, such as driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol or committing other serious driving-related offences that put others at risk, are not acceptable and will not be tolerated,” Mackintosh said in the release.

The proposed act would result in the following amendments to the Highway Traffic Act that would specifically target those who drive while impaired:

• Increased immediate roadside driver’s licence suspension for first-time low-blood alcohol concentration (0.05 to 0.08) and drug-impaired offenders to three days from the current 24 hours. The first-time suspension would be further increased to seven days if a person under the age of 16 is in the vehicle at the time of the offence;  and

• Participation in Manitoba’s Ignition Interlock program would become mandatory for all convicted impaired drivers and would take effect on driver’s licence reinstatement, thereby eliminating the option for impaired drivers to avoid this requirement by delaying licensing once a mandatory period of suspension has been served.

Amendments to the Drivers and Vehicles Act would also require law enforcement officers to notify the Registrar of Motor Vehicles whenever a driver has been charged with a serious driving-related offence so the registrar could quickly invoke driver improvement actions, such as suspending a driver’s licence, the release noted.

Authorizing the registrar to take immediate driver improvement action based on serious driving charges laid by police would be a unique approach among Canadian jurisdictions and would improve road safety by taking immediate action when a driver’s past driving history warrants, Mackintosh said in the release. He added also unique to Manitoba is the proposed extended roadside suspension for alcohol or drug-impaired offences when a person under the age of 16 is in the vehicle.

To complement these legislative changes, amendments are also being introduced to the Driver Safety Rating regulation administered by Manitoba Public Insurance that would sanction drivers who talk on hand-held electronic devices or text while driving, Mackintosh said. “With these proposed changes, which would be effective July 1, 2015, drivers convicted of using a hand-held electronic device while driving would drop five levels on the driver safety rating (DSR) scale,” the minister said in the release. “Currently, such a conviction results in two demerits.”

Mackintosh added that drivers at the top of the DSR scale would incur additional driver costs of $542 over the five years it would take to return to their pre-conviction placement on the scale.

“The prevalence of distracted driving on our roads is equally as disturbing as impaired driving,” said Mackintosh in the release. “On average, 28 people are killed every year in Manitoba due to distracted driving. This is devastating and senseless because texting or talking while driving is 100% preventable.”