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Tougher impaired driving consequences on the way in Ontario

The Ontario government is bringing in tougher penalties as it looks to stem the alarming rise in the number of drivers getting behind the wheel drunk or high, sometimes with deadly consequences.

“We’ve been working hard with all levels of government in order to get some changes into the legislation and to work on the enforcement side as well,” said Valerie Keyes, the president of the MADD Ottawa and Area chapter.

The new legislation is expected to be tabled on Thursday. If passed it would mean anyone convicted of impaired driving causing death would be handed a lifetime licence suspension, meaning they would never be allowed back behind the wheel again.

Anyone convicted of impaired driving by drugs or alcohol, even if it’s their first offence, would have to install an ignition interlock device that would prevent a vehicle from starting if alcohol is detected in the driver’s breath.

“I would just love to not be doing this anymore because there are no more victims,” said Carolyn Swinson who lost her son Rob and father to impaired drivers about 12 years apart. She’s been volunteering with MADD Canada for decades. An impaired driver causes one in three road deaths in Ontario, the government said.

The new legislation would also increase immediate roadside licence suspensions for first and second-time alcohol and drug-related offences from 3 and 7 days to 7 and 14 days.

MADD applauds the changes. “A life being taken by impaired driving is a life sentence for that family,” said Keyes. “We need to get the message out that this is the most preventable crime in the entire criminal code.”

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