Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Solicitor General seeks changes in applications of new impaired laws

The provincial government may be starting to turn it's direction when it comes to calls for a  reassessment of it's new laws regarding impaired driving.

For his part, newly appointed Solicitor General Rich Coleman is seeking to have law enforcement officials in the province to "lighten up", when it comes to their interpretations of the application of the tougher new laws.

Coleman told the Vancouver Province that he doesn't believe a lot of discretion has been used thus far, which have given police officers across the province the power to impound drunk drivers' vehicles for seven days and impose heavy fines.

With that declaration, Victoria is abuzz with rumours that a full scale review of the laws may soon take place, a decision which will find supporters and opponents weighing in from both sides of the debate.

One of the more interested in groups when it comes to the potential for a review of the laws is the province's restaurant and bar sector.

Those new provisions have  provided for a spike in the numbers of those that have had their cars impounded,  a beneficial thing for the province's treasury (estimates have it that the province could gain up to 20 million dollars in revenue from the harsher penalties) but providing for a warning shot that seems to have had a heavy impact on the province's entertainment and culinary establishments.

Of particular concerns to restaurant owners is the fact that many customers fearful of blowing over the new .05 limits won't even order a glass of wine with dinner, worried that their libation may result in citation or worse.

The net result is declining revenues for the province's restaurant sector, an industry that faces challenges at the best of times in a tight economy.

The new regulations which were put in place in September have also provided for issues of concern with those that have been tasked with their enforcement.

Recently the Vancouver Police Union expressed concern over the fact that front line police officers were being tasked with the duties of judge and jury when it comes to impaired drivers, beyond that the increased time requirements when it comes to enforcing the new laws has in their opinion resulted in a poor allocation of police resources.

For many the new regulations have been seen to be targeting the wrong group, by tying up resources on those that may register between .05 and .08, some suggest that the larger issue of impaired driving may not be served correctly.

Even advocates for safer roads such as MADD while not happy with the developments, seem resigned to the idea that there may be some refinement to the current enforcement of the new regulations,  suggesting that there is always give and take when it comes to new legislation.

With that sentiment seemingly a common theme of late, there may yet be a revision to the laws currently in place. And while no one would argue in favour of more dangerous roads, for most it seems the focus should be better placed on those that provide the greater threat.

Some of the background on the issue can be found below, with reports from the various news resources of the province.

Vancouver Sun-- B. C.'s solicitor general mulls changes to tough drinking and driving laws
CBC News-- Review of B.C.'s impaired laws controversial
CBC News-- B.C's new impaired driving laws face review
CBC News-- Ex-solicitor general questions impaired driving review
Globe and Mail-- B. C. considers diluting tough new drunk driving laws
Victoria Times Colonist-- Heed puzzled by drinking-driving law review
Vancouver Sun-- When does win with dinner become dangerous drunk driving?
Vancouver Province-- Let's clarify thinking on drunk-driving law

Update: Nov 11-- Les Leyne of the Victoria Times Colonist offers perhaps the clearest of observations on the changing attitudes of the Liberal government and what has led to the latest developments on this issue, you can read it here.

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