© Heather Taweel - The Guardian
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.
âIndividuals who continue to get behind the wheel while impaired â even after being caught and convicted â are especially dangerous because they havenât gotten the message that it is unacceptable to drink and drive,â Vessey said.
âItâs their behavior that we need to change if we ever hope to make our roads safer for all Islanders.â
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.
âAddressing an issue like impaired driving requires an integrated approach, with all police agencies across the Island working together with the provincial government,â said Charlottetown Police Chief Paul Smith, who is vice president of the P.E.I. Chiefs of Police Association.
âThis legislation will give us another tool in our toolkit to help us keep these chronic offenders off our roadways and increase safety for everyone.â
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.