It is an offence to drive, or have care or control of a motor vehicle, while your ability to drive is impaired by alcohol or any other drug. Impairment is shown by physical symptoms, such as slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, the smell of alcohol, unsteadiness on your feet or a lack of co-ordination. It may also be shown by the way you drive.
Impaired driving is the greatest cause of criminal injury and death.
It is essential to understand the effect of any drug you are taking before operating a motor vehicle. Mood-altering (psychoactive) drugs are of particular concern because they can change the way you think, behave and physically respond. The following is a partial list of mood-altering drugs:
- Sedatives (Halcion)
- Minor Tranquillizers (Valium, Ativan)
- Narcotic analgesics (heroin, morphine, codeine, Talwin)
- Hallucinogens (LSD, MDA, mescaline)
- Cannabis (marijuana, hashish)
Some prescription mood-altering drugs include antidepressants such as Prozac and other medications for depression, manic depression and psychosis. For information on the effects and potential side effects of a mood-altering drug ask your pharmacist or doctor.
Mixing alcohol with other drugs can cause a serious reaction. This is especially dangerous when the use of a motor vehicle is involved. For example:
- Two drinks of an alcoholic beverage in combination with one normal dose of a common tranquilizer equals the impairment level produced by six drinks. Remember that one bottle of beer is equal to one and a quarter ounces of liquor or four ounces of wine.
- Two drinks of an alcoholic beverage and one light dose of marijuana can equal the impairment produced by five drinks.
If you are taking medication or a drug, know what the results of "mixing" will be before drinking. This advice is true whether the drug is by a doctor's prescription, "off the shelf" or "off the street."
Penalities and Consequences
- You can receive a 24-hour roadside suspension of your driver's license.
- You can be charged with a crime under the federal Criminal Code and sentenced in criminal court to a fine and/or time in jail.
- You can lose your driver's license under the provincial Highway Traffic Act and be prohibited by the criminal court from operating a motor vehicle on any street, road, highway or any other public place in Canada.
- You can be required to take treatment programs for problems with alcohol.
- Your vehicle can be impounded and you will be responsible for towing and storage charges.
- Your car insurance rates will increase.
- If people are injured or killed, or their property damaged, you can be sued or sent to jail.
There are penalties or consequences under both PEI's Highway Traffic Act and the Criminal Code of Canada. The Highway Traffic Act allows for the following:
- An immediate 24-hour roadside suspension of your license
- An administrative driving prohibition of 90 days effective 7 days after your 24 hour roadside suspension.
- Impoundment of your vehicle for 30 days if you are driving while suspended and have been convicted of driving while suspended or prohibited under the Criminal Code of Canada in the past two years.
- Impoundment of your vehicle for 60 days for a second offense of driving while suspended or prohibited under the Criminal Code of Canada within two years and have been convicted of driving while suspended in the past two years.
Impoundment of your vehicle for 6 months when charged with:
- any offence under the Criminal Code of Canada involving a motor vehicle where there is death or serious injury, or
- an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada for impaired driving and there has been a previous conviction in the past 10 years for death or serious injury,
- or an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada for impaired or prohibited driving and there have been 2 or more similar convictions under the Criminal Code of Canada in the past 10 years.
Penalties if you are convicted of impaired driving:
Cancellation of your driver's license under PEI's Highway Traffic Act
- 1st offence - 1 year
- 2nd offence - 3 years
- 3rd and subsequent offences - 5 years
Under the Criminal Code of Canada, as part of the sentence, the judge will also issue a Driving Prohibition Order
- 1st offence - minimum 1 year
- 2nd offence - minimum 2 years
- 3rd and subsequent offence - minimum 3 years
*Note these are minimum times and can be increased by the judge based on the severity of the offence.
The Prohibition order is a driving ban for all motorized vehicles which includes cars, trucks, motorcycles, mopeds, ATVs, snowmobiles, tractors etc. Convicted offenders in PEI also receive jail time, large fines ($1000 or more) and payment of a Victims of Crime Surcharge.
Getting your Licence Back
You do not automatically get your driver's license back at the end of your cancellation period. You must re-apply and pay a $500 reinstatement fee. You must also meet the following requirements:
The Ignition Interlock Device is mandatory for all driver's convicted of impaired driving in PEI.
- 1st offence - 1 year
- 2nd offence - 2 years
- 3rd and subsequent offences - 5 years
An additional 1 year is added to the required Ignition Interlock term if the driver at the time of the impaired charge had a passenger in the vehicle below the age of 16.
Mandatory Ignition Interlock Terms for drivers convicted of a second or subsequent offence after July 7, 2014:
- 2nd offence - BAC reading at the time of the offence 160 or below - 2 years
- 2nd offence - BAC greater than 160 - 5 years
- 2nd offence - Refusing the Breathalyzer - 5 years
After completing the mandatory ignition interlock term the driver is issued a Restricted ZERO BAC Driver's License for a period of 3 years.
It is an offence to operate a motor vehicle with any alcohol in your system when holding a Restricted Zero BAC Driver's License.
- 3rd and subsequent offence - 10 years
After completing 5 clean years of the 10 year mandatory Ignition Interlock Term, the driver may apply to the Registrar of Motor Vehicle for a Restricted Zero BAC Driver`s License and a Specially Coded Zero BAC License Plate.
If the application is approved the driver can complete the remaining 5 years of the Ignition Interlock Term with a Restricted Zero BAC Driver's License and a Specially Coded Zero BAC License Plate.
It is an offence to operate a motor vehicle with any alcohol in your system when holding a Restricted Zero BAC Driver's License and to operate a vehicle with the Specially Coded License Plate.
*Note - Violating the Zero BAC Driver's License or operating a vehicle without a Specially Coded License plate carries a fine of $1500 to $2000, 12 demerit points and a 1 year cancellation.
Additional requirements to get your licence back
- You must complete the driver's rehabilitation course which is a five hour educational program on impaired driving and the effects of drugs and alcohol, put on by Highway Safety Division.
- Your are placed on Administrative Probation for 1 year and must follow the terms and conditions of the Probation Order.
- You must have an interview with a driver improvement officer and complete a driver risk analysis. If you are considered “low-risk” or “medium-risk” for reoffending, you will be referred to the driver rehabilitation program. If you are considered “high-risk”, you will be referred to Addiction Services for an assessment and treatment program recommendations.
- You must complete the recommended program before you can apply to have your license reinstated.
- You are placed on Administrative Probation for 2 to 5 years and must follow the terms and conditions of the Probation Order.
3rd and subsequent offences
- You must have an assessment by an Addiction Services counsellor. If the counsellor says you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, you must successfully complete whatever treatment is recommended.
- The Registrar of Motor Vehicles can refuse to give you back your driver's license if he or she does not think your driving problem has improved or if you are deemed to be "a risk".
- You are placed on Administrative Probation for 10 years and must follow the terms and conditions of the Probation Order.
Your Car Insurance
A drinking and driving conviction affects your car insurance. If you have an accident while drinking, your insurance company may not pay for injuries to you or your passengers, or for damage to your vehicle. It will usually pay for injuries or property damage to others.
Whether there was an accident or not, a conviction for drinking and driving means an increase in your car insurance premiums. The insurance company could refuse to insure you in the future. It is against the law to drive without insurance. The insurance consequences are the same for all drinking and driving offences. It is not true that the insurance company treats you more lightly if you are convicted of refusal.