Alcohol-related driving deaths have decreased 40 per cent since B.C. introduced tough new drunk driving laws last year, according to newly released government statistics.

From Oct. 1, 2010 to Sept. 30, 2011 there were 68 alcohol-related driving deaths in the province – 45 fewer than B.C.'s five-year average of 113.

During the same period, police served more than 23,300 roadside prohibitions and impounded more than 20,000 drunk drivers' vehicles.

Christy Clark announced the numbers at a Wednesday press conference marking the National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims in Canada.

"All of us must live every day with the knowledge that the greatest risk to our children and the people that we love is not terrorism, it's not a plane crash, it's a drunk driver," Clark said.

The premier described the new laws, which took effect on Sept. 20, 2011, as "highly controversial" but said their impacts "have been felt in a very real way across this province."

"You can't argue with the results. You cannot argue with all those families who have not lost children," Clark said.

The laws, considered some of the toughest in Canada, give police the power to punish drunk drivers instantly and severely; those caught with a blood alcohol above .08 are given an immediate 90-day driving ban and a $500 administrative penalty.

They're also on the hook for additional towing fees, mandatory driver education and the purchase of an ignition locking device – which the government estimates could cost from $600 to $4,060 in total.

Drivers caught with a blood alcohol level in the warning range between .05 and .08 face a three-day driving ban and $200 fine, plus additional fees. Penalties increase for second and third warnings.

B.C. Public Safety Minister Shirley Bond said the latest statistics mark the first time in a decade there has been a serious drop in impaired driving deaths.

"Together with public education, prevention programs and criminal sanctions, the roadside penalties will continue to play a role in helping to ensure the success seen over the past year becomes a life-saving trend over the longer term," Bond said in a statement.