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Image: Submitted/New Brunswick RCMP

N.B. proposes stiffer impaired driving penalties

By Brad Perry May 7, 2024 | 4:04 PM

New Brunswick introduced new legislation on Tuesday aimed at strengthening impaired driving penalties.

Drivers who fail or refuse a roadside screening test could be handed an immediate roadside suspension instead of criminal charges.

“These amendments aim to deter impaired driving and make our roads safer for everyone by removing impaired drivers from the road immediately,” Public Safety Minister Kris Austin said in a news release.

“This approach forces drivers who have driven after drinking to separate the activities by mandatory participation in the ignition interlock program. It forces them, for months, to choose between drinking or driving.”

The proposed program would apply to impaired driving violations not involving serious bodily harm, death, or a passenger under the age of 16.

An immediate roadside suspension includes a 15-month suspension, a 30-day vehicle impoundment, and participation in an approved impaired driving re-education program.

Drivers would pay a $1,000 administrative penalty, an increased licence reinstatement fee of $230, and the costs of impound and a re-education course.

Once that is done, they would have to participate in the ignition interlock program for 12 months.

Criminal Code charges are currently the only option for drivers who fail or refuse a roadside screening test

They are issued a three-month administrative suspension but can continue driving while they await their court date.

If convicted, they face a $1,600 court fee, mandatory participation in a re-education course, reinstatement fees, a 12-month licence suspension, and a nine-month mandatory participation in the ignition interlock program.

“Impaired driving cases can take several months to go through the justice system and represent 28 per cent of the provincial court’s time,” said Austin.

The minister added that the proposed changes are expected to cut the number of impaired driving trials in half, allowing prosecutors to refocus their efforts elsewhere.

Officials said the program is based on similar models in British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba.

Meanwhile, the province is also proposing mandatory short-term licence suspensions and vehicle impoundments for drivers with a blood-alcohol content of 0.05 per cent or more but less than 0.08 per cent.

Penalties would begin at $200 for a first violation and increase to $400 for subsequent violations within five years. A 20 per cent victim surcharge also applies.

Currently, licence suspensions and vehicle impoundment are at the discretion of peace officers, and there are no financial penalties.