Alberta Strengthens Impaired Driving Laws

New laws are coming into force to deter impaired driving, reduce collisions and save lives.

New impaired driving laws will come into effect on April 9, 2018.

Last fall, the Government of Alberta passed An Act to Reduce Cannabis and Alcohol-Impaired Driving. As part of this bill, new impaired driving laws will come into effect on April 9, 2018.

“The loss and suffering that result from impaired driving are unacceptable and entirely preventable. As the country prepares for legalization of cannabis, we’ve strengthened our provincial impaired driving sanctions to make our roads safer and continue to deter impaired driving—whatever the source of impairment may be.”

~Brian Mason, Minister of Transportation

“The Alberta RCMP is committed to raising awareness of the devastation experienced by individuals, families and communities that all too often result from driving impaired. We will continue to take impaired drivers, whether by drugs or alcohol, off Alberta roadways and anticipate these laws will help more people think twice about getting behind the wheel if they are under the influence.”

~Supt. Gary Graham, Officer in Charge, Alberta Integrated Traffic Services

“MADD Canada welcomes these measures to prevent impaired driving. The provisions in this bill send a powerful message that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs will not be tolerated, and those who ignore the law will face strong consequences.”

~Andrew Murie, CEO, MADD Canada

“Impaired driving, whether due to alcohol or drugs, is a serious traffic and public safety issue. It’s for this reason that AMA supports these changes to Alberta’s impaired driving laws—to improve our overall safety. These changes provide the framework needed for Alberta to continue its progress in deterring and dealing with impaired driving.”

~Jeff Kasbrick, vice-president, Government & Stakeholder Relations, Alberta Motor Association

On April 9, the following new impaired driving laws will come into effect in Alberta:

  • All criminally impaired drivers (drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or over, drivers impaired by drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs, and drivers who fail or refuse to comply with a demand for a breath or blood sample) will receive a 90-day licence suspension followed by mandatory participation in a one-year ignition interlock program. Should the driver choose not to participate in ignition interlock, the licence suspension will remain in place during this one-year term.
  • These are provincial sanctions. Drivers will continue to be subject to criminal charges and all the associated penalties imposed by the courts, in addition to the provincial consequences.
  • There will be zero tolerance for Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Program drivers for cannabis and illegal drugs in the bloodstream, in addition to alcohol. GDL drivers found with any amount of alcohol, cannabis, illegal drugs or their combination will find the driver subject to a 30-day licence suspension, seven-day vehicle seizure and a lengthened term in the GDL program. (GDL drivers who meet the requirements for criminal-level impaired driving will be subject to the sanctions and penalties mentioned above.)
  • Updates have been made to the Alberta Transportation Safety Board’s procedures, streamlining their processes. For example, there will be limits on the number of reconsiderations the board is required to hear in the absence of new evidence.

Future changes

This legislation also lays the groundwork for the province to enforce upcoming changes to federal impaired driving charges in the Criminal Code of Canada—specifically, proposed blood drug concentration limits for cannabis and cannabis/alcohol combination, similar to the legal limits that already exist for alcohol.

Once federal legislation receives royal assent, the Government of Alberta will be ready to enforce criminal-level provincial sanctions (90-day licence suspension followed by one-year ignition interlock, vehicle seizure, etc.) for the new drug offences, the same way they are applied to criminal-level alcohol-impaired driving.

Quick facts

  • In May 2017, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled that parts of the province’s licence suspension legislation were unconstitutional—specifically, indefinitely suspending a driver’s licence upon the laying of a criminal charge until that charge was resolved in court.
  • This legislation addresses this decision by instituting a fixed-term suspension of 90 days.
  • The licence suspension can now be triggered if the investigating police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the driver is criminally impaired by alcohol or drugs, which includes testing by an approved screening device and the Standardized Field Sobriety Test.
  • All drivers have the right to an immediate second breath test for alcohol or a blood test for drugs to confirm their blood alcohol or drug concentration and may appeal sanctions to the Alberta Transportation Safety Board.
  • Between 2006 and 2015, 1001 people died as a result of alcohol or drug-impaired driving, and more than 15,000 people were injured.