“The impact of the government’s changes to the drunk-driving laws have been felt in a very real way across the province. They were highly controversial. They were argued about. They are still being argued about. But you can’t argue with the results.”
Premier Photo Op claimed 45 people are alive today because of changes to the law. To emphasize the great Liberal achievement, she had what Alex Tsakumis calls Christy’s crocodile moment. With assistance of legal scholar Shirley Bond, she regained composure and was her smiling self within a few seconds.
The media event on the steps of the Legislature took place November 23, days before the Supreme Court was to decide on the challenge to provincial drinking and driving laws. Every legal expert in the province — even Ministry of Attorney General lightweights — knew the court would fault the law as written. Liberals had plenty of advice about the subject and knowing it would fail, they held a preemptive bid to position themselves on the side of the angels. Liberals wanted us not to notice another example of their legislative incompetence.
While Justice Sigurdson performed legal contortions to avoid throwing out more of the existing law, this was government’s most obvious fault:
“…while the consequences from the search are substantial and approach criminal law sanctions, there is no way under the impugned law for the driver to challenge the validity of the results. …it is possible to allow for a more meaningful review to be put in place…
“…that government objective can be fully and efficiently realized while respecting the rights of the individual driver as well. The ARP regime that imposes prohibitions for drivers who “fail” at the roadside does not appropriately balance the rights of individuals and society at large. Relying on a search power derived from the criminal law that allows for a breath demand on suspicion but does not meaningfully allow the driver to challenge the suspension after the fact is not, in the entire context, reasonable. I therefore find that there is an infringement of s. 8.”
The 2010 amendments of the Motor Vehicle Act will be rewritten but we must expect, given the demonstrated incompetence of the Attorney General and her officials, the issue will play out in court again. Even without further changes to the MVA, many of Justice Sigurdson’s conclusions are likely to be re-examined in superior courts.
However, I return to Premier Photo Op’s contribution at the Legislature. It may not be politically correct to argue with the results claimed by her but I’ll have a go.
First, the people who gathered the statistics are not impartial. Just as BC Hydro’s financial results can be — and they are — manipulated for political purposes, so too can traffic stats be shaped for a political report on drinking drivers.
People with common sense know that numbers from a short time frame are unreliable while long term trends are more convincing. Do fewer deaths caused by drinking drivers — if there truly is a reduction — result from an aberration or a new norm? In fact, we can only be uncertain since the MVA changes were enacted September 20, 2010. Too little time has passed to establish reliable results.
The fact is that motor vehicle fatalities are on a downward trend everywhere in North America. Here’s a December 8 report from McClatchy Newspapers, titled Highway fatality rate drops to record low“
“KANSAS CITY, Mo. — No one will be sentimental about this record falling.
“Last year saw the lowest highway fatality rate in history, improving on the record set in 2009, federal transportation officials announced Thursday.
“For the fifth consecutive year, highway deaths dropped, reaching their lowest point since 1949.
“The improvement was credited to safer cars equipped with high-tech systems intended to keep vehicles from rolling over or veering off the road…”
Certainly, any reduction in fatalities from motor vehicle collisions has multiple causes. We can list a few possibilities, in no particular order of importance:
- Higher fuel costs result in lower miles driven;
- Weather conditions;
- Improved roadways;
- Graduated licensing moderating behaviour of young drivers who have been responsible for one quarter of serious crashes;
- Improved driver training;
- Fewer drivers unfamiliar with BC roads because of reduced tourism by motor vehicle;
- Improved transit alternatives;
- Better air-bag protection in modern vehicles;
- Electronic braking, traction and handling driver aids;
- Crashworthiness of modern vehicles;
- Improved traffic law enforcement;
- Reduced driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
We can be sure that a downward trend in fatalities has many causes. Air bag technology might be the largest contributor of all and, as the automobile fleet modernizes, these will save even more lives. In this piece, I’m not arguing for lessening the laws against drinking and driving. I do though want the laws to be written carefully and intelligently, without damaging civil rights every person is due.
Did laws passed by BC Liberals create the results claimed by Premier Photo Op? If so, they had retroactive effect across the country. These are Transport Canada statistics.