VICTORIA - B.C. drivers are once again facing what are considered the toughest drunk driving penalties in Canada after the provincial government was forced to adjust the law following a court ruling.
The law was originally introduced in September of 2010, giving police the power to impound cars and hand out hefty fines to drivers whose blood-alcohol level was higher than .05, which is slightly below the .08 legal limit under the Criminal Code.
The law was later withdrawn after a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled it violated drivers' rights because it didn't provide a way for them to challenge the result of a roadside breath test.
Under the revised law, police officers must tell drivers they can have a second test if they fail the first one, and the lower of the two readings will prevail.
Police must also provide sworn reports on every roadside driving ban they issue and must also submit documents confirming the accuracy of the breathalyzers they use.
Justice Minister Shirley Bond said the changes go beyond what the court ordered because the government wants to ensure the rules are both fair and effective.
"This legislation has always been about public safety, and its life-saving value is clear," she said in a statement.
"I want to assure all British Columbians, especially those who've lost a loved one to impaired driving, that our tough stance on impaired driving has not changed. We have not undermined the deterrent value of our law, which is so critical to the life-saving gains we've seen."
The government said the law has already exceeded its expectations in reducing drunk driving deaths in the province, with the number of deaths falling by 44 per cent in the first 17 months since the law came into force.
The government says that figure represents 71 lives saved.
In addition to immediate roadside suspensions for impaired drivers, the law includes fines and penalties that can range from $600 to more than $4,000, and drivers can also lose their vehicle
and their license.
MADD Canada CEO Andrew Murie welcomed the return of the laws.
"They've been proven to be incredibly effective at deterring people from getting behind the wheel after drinking, and having them back in effect will save even more lives," he said.