FREDERICTON (GNB) – Legislative amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act take effect next week, increasing the penalties for drug-impaired driving.

“We take the safety of those on New Brunswick’s roads very seriously,” said Public Safety Minister Carl Urquhart. “Impaired driving is one of the leading causes of preventable fatalities on our highways, and these amendments will lead to safer roads for everyone.”

As of Dec. 18, police officers who stop a driver showing signs of impairment by drugs will have the power to seize vehicles and suspend a driver’s licence on the spot.

The Department of Public Safety consulted with other jurisdictions and law enforcement stakeholders to develop the amendments, which include:

  • Zero tolerance for novice drivers and drivers under 21 years of age.
  • The authority for police to use an oral fluid screening device on drivers suspected of driving under the influence of drugs.
  • Escalating short-term licence suspensions of seven, 15 and 30 days for repeat occurrences within a five-year period.
  • Short-term vehicle impoundments of three and seven days at the discretion of the arresting officer for repeat occurrences within a five-year period, and a seven-day mandatory impoundment for third or subsequent occurrences within a five-year period.
  • A 24-hour roadside suspension for drivers deemed unfit to drive.
  • Increased licence reinstatement fees.
  • Participation in a re-education course for drivers who commit multiple offences in a five-year period, or for those charged criminally.

The amendments are intended to complement the Criminal Code of Canada, which already has legislation to address impaired driving. Under these laws, drivers caught driving while impaired face serious consequences, including fines starting at $1,000 and driving prohibitions for one year for first offences, as well as prison sentences starting at 30 days for second offences, and a minimum 120 days for subsequent offences.

More severe consequences, including years of imprisonment, may be issued to drug-impaired drivers who cause bodily harm or death.

“Following the recent legalization of cannabis, we hope these changes will send a clear message,” said Susan MacAskill, the Atlantic region manager of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada. “If you consume drugs or alcohol, plan ahead for a safe ride home. Planning ahead saves lives.”

“We expect these measures to prevent people from driving while under the influence of any substance, whether it is alcohol or a drug,” said Urquhart. “Driving while under the influence of any substance has always been, and continues to be, against the law, and these amendments should serve as a reminder of that fact.”