B.C.'s new drunk driving laws: tough or wimpy?
Although police in B.C. now have more power to crack down on impaired drivers, early statistics suggest that the tough new laws are actually letting some of the worst offenders off the hook.
The police have taken hundreds of drunk drivers off the roads this December but B.C.'s new drinking and driving laws actually reduce the number of people criminally charged.
In the first two weeks of December, 167 people were criminally charged with impaired driving compared to 515 last year.
"This is anything but the toughest jurisdiction for drinking and driving," criminal defence lawyer Wade Jensen said.
Jensen has the same message for those who have had their licenses suspended and cars seized since the new laws came into effect in September.
"I tell them that they should be thankful they live in British Columbia, because in any other province in the country they'd be facing criminal charges for their conduct," he said.
The new statistics are raising questions about whether B.C. has the toughest laws in Canada or the slackest.
Cpl. Dan Moskaluk says the new laws don't compromise enforcement.
"That still does not take away the fact that our officers are still out there enforcing our criminal code offences. It only provides them with further options," he said.
Manon Groulx from Mothers Against Drunk Driving says that the new options get drunks off the road quicker, which reduces accidents and victims.
"I'd say that we are still quite tough across the country as a whole. B.C. gives our police officers around the province a better, quick, fast tool to get them off the road immediately without extensive long wait periods before their license is suspended," she said.
The debate between swift justice and severe penalties continues.
The new rules may reduce a costly burden on the court system, but they also mean that some offenders avoid driving suspensions, jail time and a criminal record.
In B.C. about 130 people die every year as a result of impaired driving. The outcome of the debate may rest on whether the new laws can reduce deaths and truly make our roads safer.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Kent Molgat