An hour and a half after B.C.'s new impaired driving laws came into effect, the Whistler RCMP already had their first customers.
At 1:27 a.m. on Sept. 20, an RCMP road safety check at Hillcrest and Highway 99 stopped a 30 year old from Maple Ridge who showed signs of impairment. When the police asked him to breathe into the roadside screening device the man refused - which is the same as testing as impaired under the tough new law.
He was given a 90-day driving prohibition, and his mother's vehicle was impounded for 30 days at her expense. They are also required to pay for the tow.
As well, the male - who has two 24-hour driving suspensions on the books - is being charged with failing to provide a sample.
Just eight minutes after that vehicle was stopped the RCMP pulled over a vehicle driven by a 20-year-old Whistler woman who showed signs of impairment. She failed her rating, which also resulted in a 90-day driving prohibition and 30-day impoundment of her vehicle. As well, she was a new driver and was prohibited from driving with any alcohol in her system.
The new laws introduced by the province are considered to be the toughest in the country, with significant financial penalties for impaired driving over 0.08 per cent blood alcohol content, as well as new penalties for drivers that test over 0.05 per cent.
Previously drivers under 0.08 per cent were given a 24-hour driving prohibition and the only charge was for a tow. Now, tipsy drivers who blow in the "warn" range of between 0.05 and 0.08 per cent face an automatic three-day driving suspension for a first offence, seven days for a second and 30 days for third, if they happen within a five-year period. Fines are $200, $300 and $400 respectively, and drivers must also pay $250 to reinstate their licences. They may also be charged for towing. Altogether, the province has estimated that a first offence could cost $600, including tow costs and impounding.
As well, repeat offenders with three offences are required to take a mandatory Responsible Driver Program or install alcohol ignition interlocks on their vehicles - both at the owner's expense.
For impaired drivers over 0.08, the penalties are even more significant. A fail on a roadside screening test results in an immediate 90-day driving ban, a $500 fine, a 30-day vehicle impound at the driver's expense and the driver will be required to take a Responsible Driver Program and install an interlock device at their expense. Drivers could also face possible criminal charges and could end up with bans of six months to a year.
The province estimates that a first offence could cost a driver roughly $3,750, once all the costs are factored in - not including any loss of income, or transportation costs a driver incurs as a result of losing their licence.
The new laws were brought in to combat the rising number of impaired driving cases in the province, following almost two decades of declines. Impaired driving kills an average of 133 people and injures another 3,000 every year.
In July, the Whistler RCMP reported that the number of impaired arrests in the first half of 2010 were 50 per cent higher than during the same period last year - although direct comparisons are impossible because enforcement patterns can change over time and Whistler did not have an officer dedicated to traffic services last year.
The goal of the B.C. government is to reduce impaired driving fatalities by 35 per cent by the end of 2013.
Impaired driving is not the only penalty to get stiffer. The RCMP also introduced tougher laws for excessive speeding, over 40 km/h over the limit, excessive tailgating and "stunting" - doing wheelies and doughnuts. A first offence results in a seven-day impoundment at the owner's expense; the second offence within two years results in a 30-day impoundment, and the third offence leads to a 60-day impoundment. There is also a fine of $368 to $483, drivers lose three licence points and ICBC will assess a driver-risk premium of $320 for three years above current premiums.
The Whistler RCMP have already fined one person for speeding, more than 50 km/h over the limit, and impounded the individual's vehicle.