Canada’s Tough New Impaired Driving Laws

Did you know that the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada is still impaired driving? In an effort to combat Canada’s drunk driving problem, significant changes to the law were made effective December 18, 2018.

One of these changes involves the power of a police officer to demand a roadside breath sample. Under the old law, an officer had to have a reasonable suspicion that the driver was impaired before demanding a breath test. Under the new legislation, mandatory alcohol screening may be conducted on anyone exercising care and control of a vehicle which was lawfully stopped for any reason. Reasonable suspicion of impaired driving is no longer required, and anyone who refuses to take the test can be charged.

The law has also been amended to catch drivers who engage in what is known as “bolus drinking” as a defence to impaired driving. Under the former law, a driver might admit to being impaired at the time of testing, but claim they consumed a significant amount of alcohol while driving, or immediately after driving, and were not impaired while behind the wheel. The new law permits a conviction for impaired driving if a person has a blood alcohol level at or over 80 mg/ml within two hours of driving.

Maximum prison terms for impaired driving have also been increased. Previously, the maximum penalty for impaired driving was 5 years in prison. Under the new law, the maximum penalty has been doubled to 10 years in prison.

Canada’s tough new impaired driving laws have been implemented in an effort to reduce the frequency of drunk driving. Hopefully, the message is received by users of our roads, as drunk driving remains a significant problem.

Oatley Vigmond is Ontario’s Personal Injury Law Firm. If you or someone you know has been hurt by a drunk driver or in a motor vehicle collision, we may be able to help.

About the Authors


Adam Little earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto in 1996. He graduated from Queen’s University Faculty of Law in 2000 and was called to the bar in 2002. Adam was practicising on Bay Street for a leading Toronto litigation firm that represented doctors in medical malpractice claims when he realized that helping people through personal injury litigation was what he wanted to do. “I wanted to work for the best,” he said. A partner at Oatley Vigmond had written the best-known book available about addressing jury trials, which Adam had read and admired. He wrote to the partner, went through an intense interview process and became a partner at the firm in 2005.

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