P.E.I. government targets chronic impaired drivers

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Robert Vessey left, MLA and Chief Paul Smith, Charlottetown Police Department, hold a breathalyzer and new marked license plate at a press conference outlining the amendments to the Highway Traffic Act in regards to those so choose to repeatedly drive while under the influence of alcohol. The press conference was held at Province House Friday.

The P.E.I. government is cracking down on chronic drunk drivers with longer ignition interlock sentences, more restrictions and a specially coded licence plate.

Transportation Minister Robert Vessey says repeat offenders present a danger to highway safety.

“Individuals who continue to get behind the wheel while impaired – even after being caught and convicted – are especially dangerous because they haven’t gotten the message that it is unacceptable to drink and drive,” Vessey said.

“It’s their behavior that we need to change if we ever hope to make our roads safer for all Islanders.”

Proposed amendments to the Highway Traffic Act announced will increase the mandatory ignition interlock sentence to five years for a second offence if their blood alcohol content is twice the legal limit, and to 10 years for three or more offences. 

After their ignition interlock sentence is up, second-time offenders would have to carry a restricted drivers licence.

Third-time offenders who stay clean for five years of their 10-year mandatory sentence could apply to trade their ignition interlock for the restricted licence and a specially coded licence plate for their vehicle.

Also, a fine of $2,000 will be set for violating administrative prohibition as well as 12 demerits, which will automatically result in drivers licence suspension.

“Addressing an issue like impaired driving requires an integrated approach, with all police agencies across the Island working together with the provincial government,” said Charlottetown Police Chief Paul Smith, who is vice president of the P.E.I. Chiefs of Police Association.

“This legislation will give us another tool in our toolkit to help us keep these chronic offenders off our roadways and increase safety for everyone.”

The total number of impaired-driving convictions has decreased over the past four years due in part to tougher legislation, targeted patrols by law enforcement and more Islanders calling 9-1-1 from their vehicles when they witness an impaired driver.

However, the proportion of second- and third-time offenders has increased, prompting the need for tougher penalties for this group.

Once passed in the legislature, these changes will take effect on July 7.


Check back later today for an update to this story. Full details in tomorrow's print and E-editions of The Guardian.

Organizations: Police Association

Geographic location: P.E.I., Iceland, Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • voter
    May 11, 2014 - 11:26

    never mind the jail time for first time --just good stiff fines with picture in paper and online(during suspension) along with jail time and longer suspensions pending for non payment Life long suspensions etc for repeaters

  • Big Joe
    May 10, 2014 - 08:39

    The government should also be targeting people who text message while driving because they're just as dangerous as a drunk driver. Like drunk drivers, jail time, fines and loss of license should be the punishment. The fines don't seem to be enough.

  • robin
    May 10, 2014 - 07:51

    The whole idea is crazy... Once is a big mistake. Two... well who cares if you ever drive again.... They ruin peoples lives and have disrespect and people CARE if they can drive again... that is just bizarre... treat it like walking around with a gun and shooting randomly for gods sake....

  • get real
    May 10, 2014 - 05:14

    the really stupid part is that a person who gets caught the SECOND TIME is still offered a liscense to drive !!!! how about 5 years liscense suspension for first time conviction ?????????????? WHY NOT ??????????

  • The Observer from Stratford
    May 09, 2014 - 22:41

    This was a good idea until it was made public knowledge. Anyone want to bet how long it will be before the hacker community figures out how to identify these plates? For hackers this is just a new game to play.

  • I voted for the other guy!
    May 09, 2014 - 20:49

    Anyone else notice they did not list the cuts to police departments as a connection to the decrease in impaired driving 'convictions'? Continued cuts to policing will further reduce the number of impaired driving 'convictions' but that does not benefit our province. Guardian reporter: What is the charge - conviction ratio? Has that increased or decreased in the past 4 years? That would be worth adding in your update.

  • Son of Mr.
    May 09, 2014 - 19:34

    I'm presuming this special plate goes on if the registered owner is the multiple offender. Can he or she can simply have the vehicle registered to a non-offender (ie their spouse) and avoid the extra attention? Looks more like they're throwing ideas at a dart board and nothing seems to be working to curb this problem.

  • Jim
    May 09, 2014 - 15:06

    How about impounding their cars, until they get their driving rights reinstated.. A lot of these people just jump right behind the wheel like nothing has happened. Forget about the ignition lock ,they know how to work around that

  • Regular Joe
    Regular Joe
    May 09, 2014 - 13:44

    I can agree with all this except for the special plate . So if the car is shared by family members they become a target for random stops too ,now is that not illegal or is not everyone protected again illegal and random searches . First offense no license for 1 yr mandatory 1wk jail time and interlock system for 1 yr following reinstatement . Second offense mandatory 3months jail ,5yr suspension and interlock system for 3yr following reinstatement . If caught driving under suspension then license forfeited for 8 yrs 1yr jail time ,any and all subsequent offenses mandatory 5 yrs jail . No one gets targeted that should not be and no one gets hurt except the one committing the offense . Never mind these special plates which were a foolish idea before and still are,that will just cost more money to the province to make . Oh and no weekends for impaired driving or any driving offense . You will soon see the numbers drop as repeat offenders will either get the message or be in lock up

    • don
      May 09, 2014 - 14:18

      and if you kill some one life in jail 25 years plus a day. serious injuries 5 years in jail plus a day .and licence is gone for life......... and that is any motorized vehicle even a lawn tractor etc.

    • interesting point
      May 09, 2014 - 15:09

      Impaired driving offences do already include ANY motorized vehicle... plane, train, boat, automobile, lawn tractor, motorcycle, moped, seadoo, skidoo, etc etc. There is even a case where a fellow drove a forklift from work to the liquor store, while drunk, and was convicted.

    • don
      May 10, 2014 - 00:07

      but i do not agree with this bull of the 3rd time drunk. how many could he/she murder after the 1st and 2nd time. the law should be if you are nailed the 1st time. but i guess they want you to buy more booze to hell with the lives. just money for wes.

    • Substance Abuse is a FAMILY problem
      May 10, 2014 - 06:17

      Regular Joe...unfortunately FAMILY members KNOW their family member has Substance abuse problems and turn a blind eye....to their driving and abuse issues(they may be abusers themselves)when they should be reporting the individual......THIS IS A FAMILY PROBLEM...They do not realize although it is hard to do so..you could be saving someone's life including the loved one.....police intervention at the right time MOST times is the start of an intervention ....and causes a cry for help...a short stint in jail,...or contact with the legal system is not always bad.....many have been the start of sobriety and life changes ......I recall one Mountie 30 yr ago who helped many people (families) thru strict enforcement and making a point for families to take that time to get the help they need...not letting drunk driving convictions,accidents and hit and runs add up.....and he helped a lot of people.....and I know he saved lives......where he was posted...I know because it saved a family member of my own.......let's hope these new plates serve their purpose.....