For many people, the thought of consequences for impaired driving is only something that happens if you have a blood alcohol content, or BAC, of .08. Here in Saskatchewan, though, depending on how long you have had your license, there could be consequences even if your breath or blood test comes up below .08 BAC.
“If you pulled over and you are asked to give a breath sample and you blow a warning or a fail, there is a possibility you could get your license suspended for a few days and your vehicle impounded,” cautioned Weyburn Police Chief Jamie Blunden.
There are a number of factors that can determine the consequences, such as a driver’s experience, the number of previous impaired driving offences, or whether the driver has anyone under the age of 16 with them in the vehicle, but any driver who is caught driving with a BAC over .04, but under .08, will have their license suspended for at least three days for an experienced driver, and for 60 days for a new driver. As well, the vehicle is impounded, at the cost of the driver, for a minimum of three days. There is also a mandatory impaired driving education program for a first offence. As well, four Safe Driver Recognition demerit points are accrued, and those with three or more offences will have a mandatory ignition interlock device installed.
“As a student driver, you have to have zero alcohol in your system,” Blunden added. A new driver is anyone under the age of 21, anyone with a Class 7 driver’s license, anyone with a Class 5 novice license, anyone with an equivalent license from a different jurisdiction, anyone who hasn’t had a driver’s license in more than five years, has an out of country license with unclear class and restrictions, or with a restricted or provisional license.
The penalties for new drivers include a 60-day license suspension, as mentioned before, along with a vehicle impoundment for a minimum of three days, and the requirement to take the Driving Without Impairment education program.
Blunden also cautioned that alcohol isn’t the only way a person can be impaired behind the wheel. The use of drugs, whether prescription or recreational, can also cause a person to be charged with impaired driving. When it comes to drugs, things are handled a little differently.
“We have experts out there that are trained in the drug recognition area as well,” Blunden elaborated. “Between blood samples, saliva samples and our drug recognition experts, there is a possibility you could be charged with impaired driving by drug.”
The limit for impaired driving by drug is zero. This means that any sign of impairment, along with the samples that can be taken for testing as well as the testing by the drug recognition expert, can result in impaired driving charges.
The criminal penalties for driving while impaired by cannabis start with having more than two nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood and having any detectable level of a number of other drugs such as cocaine, LSD or methamphetamine. Provincially, however, there is zero tolerance, which means the same penalties for blowing over.04 BAC, b but under .08 BAC, apply for anyone who is impaired by drugs in Saskatchewan.
Last year, there were 1,968 short-term license suspensions handed out in Saskatchewan to drivers who exceeded the provincial limits for alcohol or drugs. Impaired driving was also the leading cause of fatal collisions in Saskatchewan in 2022.
Police and SGI are asking everyone who plans to drink, or use drugs, to ensure they have a plan to get home sober such as a designated driver, phoning a sober friend or family member for a ride home, using a rideshare or designated driver service, taking a taxi or just staying the night.