Kathy Ehman

There’s no way to misinterpret what Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) advocate.

Don’t drive when impaired by drugs and/or alcohol; avoid distractions like texting or using a hands-on phone. In fact, don’t do anything that takes attention away from driving, from monitoring traffic flow and road conditions, from noting speed limits, safe passing zones and the unanticipated acts of other drivers, pedestrians, animals and the weather.

Fines are increasing. Jail time can be expected with even the first impaired conviction, sending the courts’ message of intolerance for the danger incapacitated drivers present to everybody, including themselves.

But still, although the number of charges laid plummeted from more than 1,500 in 1980 to a little over 200 in 2018, impaired driving charges continue to dominate the provincial court dockets, with a disturbing number of young people sentenced.

Those sentences had been handed out most often to people of middle-age or older but as provincial court judge Nancy Orr handed a hefty fine and a jail sentence to a young driver not yet of legal drinking age, she noted it had been a very expensive day for them. It’s the extras and add-ons that will really hurt. A criminal record, fines, fees for impounded vehicles, a whopping $770 plus to get a driver’s license back, a minimum of a year’s driving prohibition (two, for a graduated license which comes with its own zero tolerance condition) and $1,200-$1,400 for a mandatory ignition interlock system when the driving ban is over.

The convicted young driver can expect their insurance to be at least five times what they’d pay as a new driver.

The illusion of being invincible, even when impaired, shatters in the courtroom but the financial reality endures. If an accident occurs, awareness of being the cause of suffering and hardship may last much longer.

Kathy Ehman

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