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Alberta Impaired Driving Laws: Long Weekend Will See New Legislation Take Effect

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Leave your keys at home: Alberta gets set to implement touch new drinking and driving legislation this long weekend. (Getty)
Leave your keys at home: Alberta gets set to implement touch new drinking and driving legislation this long weekend. (Getty)

Before you go throwing a bunch of drinks back and reaching for your car keys this long weekend, remember that Alberta's new impaired driving laws will come into effect.

Begining Sept. 1, being caught with a blood alcohol concentration between .05 and .08 means you could face a three day licence suspension and your vehicle will head to the impound lot for 72 hours.

And the penalties go up every time you're caught after that.

Traffic unit Acting Insp. Michael Watterston told CBC Calgary the Calgary Police Service will use the tougher penalites as a way to impose immediate roadside sanctions.

"Certainly the message here is for motorists to be aware of the new changes that have come into force and, clearly, it is so important for individuals who do choose to go out and consume alcohol to have a Plan B," he told the CBC.

According to the Calgary Herald, about 1,000 Albertans have had their licence suspended since the first phase of the the new rules took effect on Canada day.

At least 994 drivers who gave a breath sample above the Criminal Code limit of .08 were given an immediate suspension of their operator's licence - and more than 600 of those people also saw their vehicle seized. Each person's suspension will remain in place until criminal charges are resolved, the Herald reports.

According to a Calgary Sun report, there will be no grace period when the changes take effect.

However, according to the Sun, Calgary police do not have plans to implement more Check Stops or increase their presence on Calgary roads to enforce the new laws.

“It’s business as usual,” Watterson told the Sun.

The same holds true in Edmonton. However, Edmonton Police Staff Sgt. Barry Mason told the Journal the amount of time it takes police to investigate at traffic stops could increase, as the new laws allow drivers to ask for a second breathalyzer test on a different maching.

And while the Tory government maintains the new penalties are not meant to target casual social drinkers, there is worry about the effect the new legislation could have on the hospitality industry.

British Columbia saw similar laws come into effect almost two years ago and many restaurants and bars reported a drastic change in business.

Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the British Columbia Restaurant and Foodservices Association, told the Journal the change in law resulted in more people staying at home for dinner and drinks, rather than risk the chance at blowing over the limit. Tostenson said sales at licensed establishments in B.C. have dropped 15 to 30 per cent.

“Is it really going after those people who are absolutely a danger on the roads? And if it isn’t, I think we’re hurting the average citizen who is not irresponsible by having a couple of glasses of wine," Tostenson told the Journal.

However, anti-impaired driving groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving are praising the new laws and hope they act as a deterrant.

“Low blood alcohol content countermeasures have been proven to reduce alcohol-related crashes, deaths and injuries,” MADD national president Denise Dubyk told the Sun.

Journalists in Calgary hit the police station last week to learn about the new laws and try out the breathalyzer for themselves, in an "alcohol dosing session." Each journalist was told to bring alcoholic drinks they would typically drink as well as an lunch they would have on any average day. This, they were told, would simulate a business lunch or post-workday drinks.

As their boozing continued over the hour-and-a-half they were admistered breathalyzer tests, to varying results.

The Globe and Mail's Dawn Walton live-tweeted the experience (you can see all of her tweets from the booze-up below), her informative tweets extolling the benefits of a big breakfast on a BAC reading:

As well, Walton notified followers when she didn't feel fit to drive (after only three drinks.)

The Government of Alberta website reports 96 deaths and 1,384 injuries occurred in alcohol-related collisions in 2010.

Read tweets from Walton's experience drunk-tweeting from the cop shop and learn about the new impaired driving laws in our galleries below.

Booze And Blow At The Calgary Cop Shop
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Alberta's New Impaired Driving Laws
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