Ontario Improving Road Safety Ahead of Cannabis Legalization
New Measures Include Tougher Penalties to Deter Drug-Impaired Driving
To help keep roads safe, Ontario plans to introduce new measures to make drug-impaired driving laws even tougher.
Premier Kathleen Wynne and Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation, were in Toronto today to announce that Ontario plans to introduce legislation this fall that would increase the consequences and costs for those who drive under the influence of drugs, including cannabis. The measures add to Ontario's comprehensive cannabis plan, introduced in advance of the federal government's plans to legalize recreational cannabis by July 2018.
In Ontario, the penalties for impaired driving are already among the toughest in Canada. The province has been working closely with public health and safety experts, police, and federal and municipal governments to develop the proposed measures, which build on Ontario's recent action to align penalties for drug-impaired driving with those already in place for drunk drivers.
New, tougher laws against drug-impaired driving will include zero tolerance for:
- Young drivers aged 21 and under
- Novice drivers -- G1, G2, M1 and M2 licence holders
- All commercial drivers.
Zero tolerance means that drivers should not get behind the wheel if they have any detectable presence of drugs or alcohol in their system. For cannabis, the federal government will be approving a screening device and setting the thresholds for detectable presence in the coming months.
Ontario's legislation would also increase monetary penalties for all drivers who fail, or refuse to perform, a sobriety test.
As the federal legalization of cannabis approaches, Ontario plans to convene a summit in the fall of 2017 with policing partners, public health and other stakeholders. With the goal of keeping communities safe, the summit will be an opportunity to identify the resources necessary to address illegal storefront cannabis sales, proposed provincial offences, enforcement, opportunities for coordination and collaboration, and associated resource requirements.
- According to the 2014 Ontario Road Safety Annual Report, 29 per cent of all road fatalities that year involved a driver impaired by drugs and/or alcohol.
- In addition to provincial sanctions, impaired driving can lead to federal criminal charges, which could ultimately result in a loss of licence, additional fines and jail time.
- Ontario is the first province or territory in Canada to publicly announce a comprehensive plan to regulate federally legalized cannabis. Key elements include setting a minimum age, promoting education and awareness and proposing a safe and sensible approach to the retail of recreational cannabis.
“There is no excuse for impaired driving — whether it is due to drugs or alcohol. It is unacceptable, dangerous and the consequences can be tragic and life-changing. Our zero tolerance policies for the highest-risk drivers are about keeping Ontario’s roads safe and protecting people across the province.”
“As we get ready for the legalization of cannabis, we are working to make our impaired-driving laws even tougher and keep our roads safe. Impaired driving, whether by drugs or alcohol, is illegal, dangerous and it’s never okay.”
Steven Del Duca