Tough penalties overdue

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The penalties are about to be toughened; now it’s time to drive home the message.

Island legislators on Tuesday decided to finally crack down on those convicted of driving drunk.

Long overdue, this is good news for anyone travelling Island roads.

Transportation Minister Robert Vessey said new amendments to the Highway Traffic Act would make P.E.I. the leader in cracking down on drunk drivers.

The legislation cannot come soon enough. Courtrooms in P.E.I. see far too many people accused of impaired driving. Even more disturbing are the amount of repeat offenders and the amount in which they are exceeding the legal blood-alcohol limit of .08.

With no discernable drop in drunk driving statistics for the Island despite years of public awareness campaigns and judges themselves now attempting to issue harsher penalties, it is time to hit offenders where it hurts most – in the pocketbook and with a loss of freedom.

The details of the proposed new laws remain, for now, a mystery, but hopefully we will see a significant bump in the minimum fines for the offence (presently $1,300) increase substantially.

Freedom of offenders too must be affected. The province’s three judges presently issue one- to seven-day jail terms for first time offenders. Maybe it’s time for a full week’s worth with no option for a weekend sentence.

Drunk driving accounts for almost a third of all criminal code convictions in this province, and we lead the entire country at almost twice the national average.

Tory MLA Hal Perry tabled a motion at the legislature that was debated Tuesday evening. It is good to see MLAs on both sides of the floor agreeing on such an important issue.

Perry was right when he noted that it is time to “explore new options… review old options…” and “find solutions to this problem.”

“We need to get a clear message out to everyone who lives in this province… We will not condone impaired driving.”

It appears notice has been served. Now we just have to wait for the results.

It may be too late for families like that of 63-year-old Elizabeth Ann Sovis of Edmonton, the cyclist killed on an Island road earlier this year by an alleged drunk driver, but hopefully this new amendment will be a good first step in helping prevent another such tragedy.

Vessey is set to table the proposed changes to the act on Thursday. Let’s hope they have the depth required to make a difference.

Geographic location: Iceland, P.E.I., Edmonton

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Recent comments

  • don
    November 27, 2012 - 00:40

    jail time full not served on weekends if a drunk loses his job big deal. if he is married his wife knows he drinks and drive so she can report him or take the keys. it is better then him or her taking a LIFE.

  • Concerned About Impaired Drivers on PEI
    November 22, 2012 - 18:43

    Increased provisions under the Highway Traffic Act as they apply to Impaired Drivers is a big step in the process. What is still disturbing to many is the day in custody and a fine of app$1300 dollars for first offenders. This is proving no to be a deterent. First offence should be one week in jail straight time, fined $5000.00, include impouding the vehicle for six months and make interlock devices mandatory, of course this would increase everytime someone becomes a repeat offender. The Judges can only do some much until Criminal Code provision sentencing guidelines are increased. Only time will tell if these recent efforts will work. We are all hoping for the best. Islanders have to say Drinking and Driving is totally unacceptable and than everyone has to do their part in reporting suspected Impaired Drivers, Law Enforcement cannot do it alone.