Our Opinion -
Ottawa has a real opportunity to take another step toward stamping out impaired driving, but appears to be unwilling to do so for fears of the surge in impaired-driving charges before the courts. While it's a legitimate concern, it would make sense to toughen the laws to make it more difficult for impaired drivers to get on the road.
At issue is a proposal to lower the legal blood-alcohol limit for drivers from the present .08 to .05, the level medical science suggests represents the treshold at which the ability to operate a motor vehicle becomes sufficiently impaired to present a danger.
Despite this, a report from the parliamentary justice committee is recommending the level be left where it has been since 1969.
Impaired driving remains the Number 1 criminal cause of death in Canada, but the federal justice committee feels lowering the limit would add another 75,000 to 100,000 impaired-driving cases on top of the caseload of more than 50,000 criminal cases annually.
Instead, it suggests that law enforcement and justice resources would be best directed at the most dangerous drivers who are already well above the legal limit. The report says those with high blood-alcohol counts represent about one per cent of the cars on the road at night and weekends yet they account for nearly half of all drivers killed at those times.
The report suggests that lowering the limit will do nothing to target these drivers and widening the net to bring more impaired drivers into the criminal courts will only further bog down the system and outweigh any traffic safety benefit that may result from a lower limit.
As much as Ottawa may want to target the most severe offenders, the fact is even one impaired driver on the road is one too many and a person with a low blood-alcohol level is just as likely to be involved in a serious accident than someone whose level is much higher.
The cost to the justice system should not outweigh the carnage on our nation's highways and the pain and suffering inflicted on so many innocent victims and their families.