FACE TO FACE: Should drinking-and-driving rules be made even tougher?
Over a year ago, the BC Liberal government introduced new drunk driving laws that, at the time, were the toughest in the country. Under the new rules, drivers with a blood-alcohol level of between 0.05 and 0.08 - the so-called "warn" range - face an immediate three-day driving ban.
Since the laws were introduced in September 2010, the number of drunk-driving deaths in our province dropped 40%, with an estimated 45 lives saved.
Now, it's time for B.C. to be a trailblazer once again and introduce the first universal zero-tolerance laws in Canada. In other words, if you drink any alcohol at all, you don't drive.
Most European nations carry a standard of .05 or lower and a few countries, including the Czech Republic, have zero-tolerance policies.
In the Czech Republic, the results have been dramatic. According to the World Health Organization, the proportion of road traffic deaths attributable to alcohol in that country is pegged at 3.4%. By comparison, in British Columbia, 17.2% of traffic fatalities in 2011 were alcohol-related.
If we had the same proportion of alcohol-related road traffic deaths as the Czech Republic, we could save an additional 27 lives each year.
Even if a zero-tolerance policy saves only one life, isn't it worth it?
Certainly, the food service industry would challenge a zero-tolerance measure. But many in the restaurant and bar industry have rebounded from the last change in the law and would do so with a zero-tolerance law - it might just require some innovation.
For instance, a bar in Kamloops now offers safe rides home in customers' vehicles much like Operation Red Nose, the volunteer-driven fundraiser.
Another restaurant has started a shuttle-bus service that takes home between 100 and 150 intoxicated patrons every Saturday night.
Businesses will find ways to adjust. The public focus should be on saving lives.
The research is clear: Any amount of alcohol affects judgment and reaction time. The effect is minuscule at small amounts but who's to say where to draw the line?
A millisecond of inattention, of delayed reaction, could result in injury or even death.
The answer is simple.
Andy Radia is a Coquitlam resident and political columnist who writes for Yahoo! Canada News and Vancouver View Magazine. He has been politically active in the Tri-Cities, having been involved with election campaigns at all three levels of government, including running for Coquitlam city council in 2005.