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Federal government explores lowering the legal limit to 0.05%

The federal Justice Minister has floated the idea of lowering Canada’s legal alcohol limit to 0.05 from 0.08.

As most Canadians know, the legal blood-alcohol content (BAC) limit for drivers is 80 milligrams of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of blood, or 0.08%. However, as the Toronto Star reports, that may change in the not-so-distant future as the federal government explores whether to lower the legal limit to 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres (or 0.05% BAC). While the proposal has caused some controversy, its supporters say that recent research has revealed that driving with a BAC of 0.05% can double the risk of a car accident and that other countries, including Ireland and Germany, have successfully lowered their legal limits to 0.05% and have seen a resultant dip in fatal accidents.

Proposal to lower legal limit

So far the proposal to lower the legal alcohol limit for licensed drivers is very much in its nascent stage, with the federal Justice Minister having simply sent letters to the provincial and territorial Justice Ministers about exploring the option. No decision has yet been made as to whether the legal limit will be lowered.

While restaurant lobbies have come out against the proposal, its supporters point out that when the legal limit of 0.08% BAC was originally set, research at the time indicated that a BAC of 0.08% doubled a driver's crash risk. More recent studies, however, show that the crash risk actually doubles with a BAC of 0.05%. A BAC of 0.08% actually triples the crash risk.

Jurisdictions that have lowered the limit

While criminalizing driving with a BAC above 0.05% at the federal level may be controversial, it would not be the first time within Canada that a jurisdiction has set its maximum BAC levels that low. Every province except Quebec currently penalizes drivers who test positive for a BAC above 0.05%, although British Columbia's penalties are by far the toughest. As the Ottawa Citizen points out, since 2010 police in B.C. have had the power to impound a driver's vehicle and suspend their license for up to 30 days if their BAC is between 0.05% and 0.08%. Those tough new rules have been credited with leading to a 50 percent reduction in drunk driving fatalities in B.C.

While B.C.'s penalties for driving with a BAC above 0.05% but below 0.08% are administrative rather than criminal, other countries have made it illegal to drive with a BAC above 0.05%, including Germany and Ireland. In fact, the federal Justice Minister cited Ireland's change to a 0.05% BAC limit as helping to reduce that country's drunk driving fatalities by 50 percent and reducing criminal charges for impaired driving by 65 percent.

Personal injury law

Anybody who has been hurt in a motor vehicle accident should get in touch with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible, especially if the accident may have been the result of another driver's negligence or criminal behaviour (such as if he or she was driving while intoxicated). An experienced lawyer can help accident victims understand what legal options they have, including by helping them with filing claims for financial compensation that they may be entitled to.

In The News

  • October 14, 2016 - Read the Hamilton Spectator story to find out how regulation changes are affecting an Ontario family
  • October 3, 2016 - The Fall 2016 issue of our newsletter, Disclosure, is now available.
  • October 11, 2016 - Michael Smitiuch discusses the impact of recent auto insurance changes - CBC Toronto Metro Morning and Ontario Morning
  • October 3, 2016 - The Fall 2016 issue of our newsletter, Disclosure, is now available.
  • September 28, 2016 - Peter Cho & Michael Smitiuch give talk about the Stilwell v. Corning case
  • September 26, 2016 - New Associate Lawyer joins the firm - Mr. Matthew Nieuwland
  • September 22, 2016 - Michael Smitiuch Co-Chairs & Speaks at The Law Society of Upper Canada Program
  • August 2, 2016 - Two New Articling Students Join Smitiuch Injury Law
  • July 26, 2016 - We are growing again! We are looking to hire a full time Law Clerk in our Tort department.
  • June 30, 2016 - Read Mike Smitiuch's article this week in Lawyers Weekly on increased use of video evidence in civil cases
  • June 29, 2016 - 2016 Smitiuch Injury Law Scholarship Recipients Announced - St. John's College & Assumption College, Brantford
  • May 26, 2016 - Michael Smitiuch discusses the changes to Ontario's auto insurance on CBC Radio Ontario Morning
  • January 4, 2016 - Articling Student Joins Smitiuch Injury Law
  • December 21, 2015 - 49th Annual CP24 CHUM Christmas Wish 2015 Toy Donations
  • December 10, 2015 - Michael Smitiuch selected as a Legal Expert by Global Law Experts
  • November 20, 2015 - Smitiuch Injury Law staff volunteers at The Toronto Lawyers Feed the Hungry Program
  • November 18, 2015 - Bola Damages Suit Against Toronto Police
  • November 18, 2015 - Family Files $5 Million Damages Suit Against Police
  • October 27, 2015 - The Fall 2015, issue of the Smitiuch Injury Law newsletter, Disclosure, is now available.
  • September 16, 2015 - We are pleased to announce the opening of an office in Hamilton!
  • September 15, 2015 - Should Ontario's legal regulator ban lawyer advertising?
  • September 9, 2015 - Chris Jackson awarded OTLA's 2015 Outstanding Law Clerk Award
  • August 13, 2015 - Family Whose Son Died in Muzik Club Shooting Mourns Loss and Looks For Answers
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