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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

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  • May 1, 2017 - A Brantford jury awards our client $2.4 million after a five week trial
  • April 24, 2017 - Michael Smitiuch discusses the Marshall Report and the vital role that lawyers play in helping injury victims fight for justice
  • April 6, 2017 - Michael Smitiuch discusses the Madeleine Petrielli $4M lawsuit on Global News - The Morning Show
  • April 5, 2017 - Family files $4M lawsuit against the City of Mississauga, the Region of Peel and others, after their daughter was killed while crossing the street
  • April 3, 2017 - Gold Sponsorship - HHSC 24th Annual Conference on Neurobehavioural Rehabilitation in Acquired Brain Injury
  • March 8, 2017 - UPDATE - The Adam Bari Story - Changes to Accident Benefits entitlement adds to family’s struggle
  • February 15, 2017 - Smitiuch Injury Law staff volunteers at The Toronto Lawyers Feed the Hungry Program.
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  • January 11, 2017 - What should you do if you are in a car accident? CBC News Toronto
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  • December 12, 2016 - Paralyzed in crash, man wins damages from City of Hamilton over faded stop line at rural crossing (CBC Hamilton)
  • December 7, 2016 - Go to the Trial & Arbitration Awards page to read the Chiocchio v. City of Hamilton et al. summary
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