Zero tolerance for drivers under 22 as N.L. toughens drunk driving laws

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New rules targeting drunk driving in N.L. begin Sept. 21

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is proposing new rules to crack down on drinking and driving, including mandatory ignition interlocks for certain offenders and a blood-alcohol level of zero for anyone under the age of 22. 

The penalty for drivers who are 21 and under — and who register any blood-alcohol content — is a seven-day driving suspension.

"Today government is taking action to make our highways safer for everyone by making changes that will prevent impaired drivers from committing repeat offences," said Service NL Minister Perry Trimper.

The new rules are also intended, he said, "to help the young people of our province develop sober driving habits."

"I think it might instill some better behaviour in people," said Memorial University student Alex Guest.

"It's awful easy to say, 'I'm going to have a beer or two and go home' and one or two beers turns into three or four, and you're drunker than you realize and end up having an accident."

Others think the government could have gone even further.

"I think that's a little bit lenient, [with a suspension of] just one week," said Destiny Brewer. "That's just wait until next week and you go drinking again."

Police will be able to impound vehicles

The amendments to the Highway Traffic Act unveiled Thursday at Confederation Building also call for a person's vehicle to be impounded for three days, for a first offence, if they blow over .08 on a breathalyzer test of if they refuse to provide a breath sample.

For a second offence within 10 years, the vehicle will be impounded for seven days. A third offence within 10 years will see the vehicle impounded for 30 days.

Under the new rules, drivers will be required to use ignition interlocks for a year after serving a driving suspension, in a move to reduce repeat offenders.

The changes were developed after consulting the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, the RCMP and Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada.

"MADD Canada welcomes this legislation. The measures being proposed are effective ways to reduce impaired driving, and reduce crashes, deaths and injuries," said the group's president Patricia Hynes-Coates.

Service NL said it will take six months after the changes are approved by the House of Assembly for the new, tougher laws to take effect.