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Ignition lock awaits Ontario drunk drivers
January 1, 2003
Anyone convicted in Ontario of a drinking
and driving offence committed on or after December 23, 2001, must install a breathalyzer
ignition lock in their vehicle once their driving privileges are
Under recent amendments to the Highway Traffic Act, the driver will have
to blow into the device before starting his or her car. If it
detects an impermissible level of alcohol (over 20 mgs of alcohol in 100 ml of blood), the car will not start.
Persons convicted of a first offence will have
to use the device, called an ignition interlock, for at least
one year; those convicted of a second offence can apply to have
it removed after three years. A driver with three convictions
will have to install the device permanently. A driver with four or more convictions is not eligible for licence reinstatement.
The device must be used by anyone who drives the offender's vehicle, including
family and friends. Offenders can choose to stay off the road until the
ignition interlock condition is removed from their licence.
Device costs about $1,300 a year
The device records the number of times the driver tries to start
the vehicle with alcohol in their breath sample. This data is
monitored regularly; the motor vehicle must be brought in once every 60 days to allow for inspection of the device. Frequent attempts to drive after drinking
could lead to further licence suspension. Failure to ensure the device is inspected every 60 days may delay removal of the device.
The Registrar of Motor Vehicles will consider the data stored
by the device in deciding whether the person applying for its
removal can be trusted to drive sober without it.
Motorists must equip their vehicles with
the device at their own expense. Installation and monitoring cost about $1,300
Samples at random intervals
To prevent drivers from drinking on the road, or from having pedestrians blow into the device for them, the system requires breath samples at random intervals while the engine is running. Drivers have about three minutes to provide a breath sample, allowing them time to pull over if necessary. If a sample is not given in that time, or if an impermissible level of alcohol is detected, the device records the event and activates flashing lights and honking horns until the vehicle is shut off.
It is an offence under the law for a person required to install
an ignition interlock to operate a motor vehicle without one.
It is also an offence to let someone drive your car without the
device if you know the person must have one.
Fines range from $200 to $20,000
Anyone committing these offences, or illegally tampering with
the device, faces a minimum fine of $200, and a maximum fine of
$20,000 in the case of a commercial vehicle or $1,000 in any other
case. Violators may also face delay in removal of the device.
Alberta, Yukon, Saskatchewan and Quebec are already using the
ignition interlock device as are at least 40 states in the United States.
The legislation aims to reduce repeat offences among impaired
Disclaimer: The material on this site is not intended as legal advice. It merely conveys general information on legal issues commonly encountered by persons facing criminal charges in Canada. If you are charged with an offence, you should contact a criminal lawyer.