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Law fuels sobering penalties

Changes to Alberta’s drinking and driving penalties will be introduced in phases over the summer.

Changes to Alberta’s drinking and driving penalties will be introduced in phases over the summer. The toughest consequences come into effect first. On July 1, new penalties will be introduced for criminally impaired drivers and drinking drivers with a graduated licence.

“People continue to drive when they are over .08,” said Alberta Transportation Minister Ric McIver. “We need a more effective way to change that behaviour. These penalties are about making sure that all of us feel more secure when we go out on Alberta’s roadways.”

A driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over .08 will be charged under the Criminal Code, just as before. In addition, beginning July 1, the driver will receive an immediate licence suspension, which remains in place until the criminal charge is resolved. The driver’s vehicle will also be seized. Once convicted, a driver will be required to use an ignition interlock device.

“The tougher penalties are all about helping more Albertans get home safe,” said Jonathan Denis, minister of justice and solicitor general. “The penalties, combined with the continued great work of our enforcement partners across the province, will reduce the needless deaths and injuries caused by drunk drivers.”

Those with a graduated driver’s licence will also face stronger penalties if they consume any alcohol and drive. Beginning July 1, these drivers will receive an immediate 30-day licence suspension and seven-day vehicle seizure.

The changes to penalties, in place since 1999, for drivers with a BAC between .05 and .08 will come into effect on September 1.

A public education and awareness campaign has begun and will run throughout the summer. The campaign will use radio, newspaper and online advertising as well as a website that can be easily accessed on mobile devices ( Print materials will also be distributed through government and its traffic safety partners. All advertising and print materials are available at

“We promised Albertans we would take the time to provide an education campaign before enacting the increased penalties,” said McIver.

“While the limits haven’t changed, the penalties have. Impaired driving is an important safety discussion in Alberta and we want to ensure that people have the facts.”

From 2006 to 2010, 569 people were killed and 8,530 people were injured in collisions in Alberta involving drinking drivers.