C-226 in 10 questions

Private Member’s Bill on Impaired Driving in 10 questions:

Q.1: what is mandatory screening?

A.1 The mandatory screening policy allows police officers to ask a driver at any given time to provide a breath sample for alcohol content analysis, even when there is no reasonable motive for it.

Q.2: Why should mandatory screening be adopted?

A.2 Random breath tests would have a huge deterrent effect because of the heightened probability of being pulled over for driving under the influence.

Furthermore, in a study where researchers collected breath samples from willing drivers just before a road block, they were able to establish that police identified no more than 50% of drivers whose blood alcohol content was over 80mg/dl. These findings show that it’s not always easy to detect alcohol consumption, especially during a brief talk on the side of the road.[1]

Q.3: Have other countries adopted mandatory screening?

A.3 Finland, Sweden and France have adopted mandatory screening in the late 1970s. Most of Australian governments did in the 1980s and New Zealand and most European countries in the 1990s. Ireland, the last country to adopt it, launched its program in 2006.[2]

Q.4: What results did mandatory screening implementation generate?

A.4 Roadside surveys have shown that, in Finland, following the introduction of mandatory screening in 1977, the number of drivers impaired by alcohol has decreased by 58%. According to a report published in Ireland, during the first year following the implementation of mandatory screening, a 19% decrease in the number of road deaths was recorded.[3]

Q.5: Do Canadians support mandatory screening?

A.5 In a survey sponsored by Transport Canada and MADD Canada, 66% of Canadians felt that police should be allowed to randomly test drivers’ breath to fight against driving under the influence.

Q.6: Will mandatory screening allow police to unfairly target certain drivers?

A.6 Mandatory screening is mainly used for road blocks where all drivers must stop. There is no embarrassment caused by this mandatory stop and nobody is targeted for inappropriate reasons since all drivers must stop and provide a breath sample.[4]

Q.7: Will mandatory screening breach the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

A.7 Under provincial highway traffic acts, Canadian drivers are already subject to random interceptions and searches. This type of random interception has been reviewed and endorsed by the Supreme Court of Canada. Since these searches are intended to check whether a vehicle is in good working order, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights concluded that it isn’t a big step to allow police to also determine whether the driver is fit to drive.

Moreover, the Supreme Court could determine that the rights violation is minimal compared to the benefits obtained under section 1, since it is possible to show a link between a decrease in the number of accidents related to drinking and driving and the implementation of mandatory screening.

[1] Random Breath Testing. Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.
[2] MADD.
[3] Idem
[4] FAQ on random breath testing. MADD.