Impaired Driving – New Laws Have Landed in Ontario

New, harsher penalties for those found guilty of impaired driving came into effect in Ontario on January 1, 2019. According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation website, impaired driving means operating a vehicle while your ability to do so has been compromised by the consumption of alcohol, drugs, or both. This includes cars and trucks, but also boats, snowmobiles, and off-road vehicles.

Getting pulled over and charged with impaired driving will make you a high-risk driver, increasing your insurance costs significantly. Here are some other important things to note with the new changes in Ontario.

Detecting Impaired Driving in Ontario

Ontario police officers are trained in detecting impaired drivers. If an officer suspects a driver is impaired by drugs or alcohol, they may perform a Standard Field Sobriety Test; a Breath Test; Drug Recognition Evaluation; or an Oral Fluid Screening. These tests can help determine if a driver is impaired, as well as if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Failure of any of these can result in immediate license suspension.

Immediate Penalties for Impaired Driving

If you’re pulled over for suspected impaired driving and fall into the warning range (a blood alcohol level of 0.05 -0.08), fail a field sobriety test, are found in violation of the zero tolerance policy or are found to be over the legal limit you will face immediate penalties on the spot. For example, falling in the warning range on a first offence will result in a 3-day license suspension and a $250 penalty.

If you’re found to be over the limit or refuse a roadside test, you will face a 90-day license suspension, 7-day vehicle impoundment, $550 penalty, and a $198 license reinstatement fee on your first offence. For subsequent offences within 10 years, education or treatment programs, and ignition interlock devices may be required. Any license suspension and any conviction will affect your insurability and your rates.

Penalties for Impaired Driving Convictions

After being tested roadside, you have to make a court appearance. If you are criminally convicted of impaired driving, you may face additional fines and even jail time. For your first offence, additional conditions may include: a minimum one-year license suspension; mandatory education or treatment program; use of an ignition interlock device for at least one year; and you will need to undergo a medical evaluation to determine whether you meet Ontario driving requirements. Additional offences within ten years result in longer, more severe penalties.

If you are planning on enjoying a night out with friends, take steps to ensure you avoid driving while impaired. Have a designated driver, plan to use public transit, or stay overnight; and talk to your doctor or pharmacist about side effects related to your prescription medication.

Remember, aside from the severe, immediate consequences of impaired driving, you will also suffer long-term costs for automobile insurance. If you have any questions, please give us a call at 1 (800) 566-6314.


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