Tough drunk driving laws good for public safety, but still bad for business

The toughest drunk driving laws in the country seem to be working.

According to the British Columbia government, the number of drunk-driving deaths in that province dropped 40 per cent during the first year of tougher impaired driving penalties.

"Forty-five more people are alive today because of the changes," Premier Christy Clark said at a press conference Wednesday.

Under the new law introduced in September 2010, 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. They also face possible vehicle impoundment and fines or related fees of up to $600.

B.C.'s success has motivated at least one province to follow its lead.

Alberta's government will introduce a similar law in its legislature next week.

The new legislation, however, will not come without resistance.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says Alberta's new laws will do little to prevent or punish drunk driving, but it will have a severe impact on small business, the Edmonton Journal reports.

The CFIB told the newspaper that similar laws in B.C. created public confusion about whether it is permissible to even have one glass of wine before driving, leading to what it claimed were losses of between 10 per cent and 50 per cent at some establishments.

Mark Von Schellwitz of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association told the Canadian Press his group's 4,000 members in Alberta are worried they will lose sales.

He pointed to B.C., where some owners are reporting significant drops in customers. He said the association would prefer the province crack down harder on problem drunk drivers.

"More than 80 per cent think that it is going to have a very negative impact on their businesses as happened in British Columbia," he said.

"About 88 per cent of our B.C. licensed members reported an average drop in sales of 21 per cent."