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New impaired driving laws in Alberta may act as deterrent

(Tom Ross - 660 NEWS)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — On Tuesday, new impaired driving laws took effect in Alberta and it should cause people to think more carefully about getting behind the wheel while tipsy.

One of the most significant changes is around first-time offenders, who will be subject to immediate penalties and will not have to go through the criminal justice system.

If police stop an impaired driver for the first time, they could be hit with a $1,000 fine, a 30-day vehicle seizure, and driver education.

There could also be additional penalties such as a license suspension and must use of an ignition interlock system for a period of time.

The adjustments are to ensure officers can handle the work right on the side of the road.

“Pretty much, it mirrors what they would get under the criminal court system as a mandatory minimum for impaired driving. However, they won’t receive a criminal record because it’s being dealt with by the province,” said Constable Dan Kurz with the Calgary Police Service.

Offenders will be able to handle everything themselves, such as new ways to pay fines, and they can call someone with the province to set up payment plans or seek out any other options to deal with the crime.

WATCH: Stiffer penalties for impaired drivers coming Tuesday

Repeat offenders, or impaired driving incidents involving collisions or injuries, will still have to go through the criminal justice system and be handled in a traditional way but this will streamline the process for other less serious incidents.

Kurz said impaired driving incidents can be quite a strain on their resources, so this can keep them focused on other work.

“Impaired driving is one of the most litigious files that can go through the court, due to the amount of motions and delays that can take place,” Kurz said.

He added that this type of law has been in place in British Columbia and resulted in fewer collisions and deaths on the road relating to impaired driving.

Andrew Murie, CEO of MADD Canada, applauded the change and is hopeful that it will have the intended purpose of making the roads safer for everyone.

“Because there’s not a single driver out there today that wants their vehicle impounded. And if they know that if they’ve had a few too many and they face the possibility of that night getting their vehicle impounded, they won’t do it,” Murie said.

Murie added that while it is too early to tell if this will drive down the total number of impairment incidents, he is hopeful this is an effective deterrent that can also have the added effect of keeping officers focused on the task of catching the offenders.

“People drive impaired because they don’t think they’re going to get caught,” he said. “It takes about 45 minutes to do an administrative charge. So consequently, there’s more police officers on the road protecting and serving as that deterrent.”