FACE TO FACE: Should drinking-and-driving rules be made even tougher?
Most of us already have zero tolerance for drunk driving - but how do we best reduce its occurrence?
Although it pains me, I must admit the recent BC Liberal impaired driving legislation makes sense. Maximum allowable blood alcohol levels are now .05. With simplified roadside suspensions, stiffer driving prohibitions and increased road checks, we have enough legislative clout to castigate impaired drivers.
The old .08 threshold was nebulous; two drinks and then one per hour after that? What if I'm a bit bigger or smaller? What if I have a particularly efficient liver? What if I quit drinking two hours before I drive or drink black coffee?
The old threshold allowed for rationalization. The new .05 threshold, is clear: One glass of wine with dinner or one beer at the hockey game - that's it. Or, in order to be sure, nothing at all to drink.
It's clear, it's enough. It covers the driver whose wife went into labour after he had a glass of wine or the woman from Port Moody who had a beer at the Canucks game.
But why not go all the way to legislated zero tolerance, making any level of blood alcohol unacceptable when driving a car?
Zero tolerance doesn't stop people from doing things. It doesn't stop bullying. Capital punishment doesn't lower murder rates. Zero tolerance is just a way to express indignation. It doesn't increase deterrence or add clarity, as my hang-'em-high colleague might argue.
Legislation can't and shouldn't replace the professional judgment of police, prosecutors and judges who will continue to make discretionary decisions based on circumstance.
Rather than concentrating on escalating punishments, how about working to give prospective impaired drivers more options? What if our transit system ran until restaurants and bars closed? What if we were allowed to park at Lougheed Town Centre after hours and until 9 a.m. the next day rather than being ticketed or towed when trying to use SkyTrain for an outing? What if taxis were available and would actually venture to the Tri-Cities hinterland? What if MADD's next goal was to work to expand SkyTrain and transit services?
Zero-tolerance legislation won't further reduce drunk driving and recent new laws have added sufficient enforcement clout. Now, let's focus on finding solutions that go beyond expressing outrage.
Face to Face columnist Jim Nelson is a retired Tri-City teacher and principal who lives in Port Moody. He has contributed a number of columns on education-related issues to The Tri-City News.