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Impaired drivers in Ontario to face tougher penalties including lifetime suspension

Ontario's Minister of Transportation Prabmeet Sarkaria attend Question Period at the Ontario Legislature in Toronto on November 28, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

TORONTO — People in Ontario convicted of impaired driving would have to install an ignition interlock device in their car and wouldn't be allowed to drive again if they kill someone while impaired behind the wheel, under upcoming legislation.

Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria announced Wednesday that he will introduce legislation Thursday that would include those new measures, as well as requiring convicted impaired drivers to undergo mandatory remedial education and treatment.

"When you get in the car under the influence, you're rolling a weighted dice," he said.

"Victims of impaired driving are mothers, brothers, sons and daughters. Too many lives have been turned upside down by the reckless and selfish actions of someone else. Too many families in Ontario have had their lives torn apart, families torn apart, by the careless and shameful actions of an impaired driver."

The legislation would impose a lifetime licence suspension for people convicted of impaired driving causing death, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving supports the bill.

Carolyn Swinson, a volunteer with MADD, lost her eldest son in an impaired driving crash in 1993, which came about 12 years after her father was killed by someone who had been drinking. She also does victim support for the organization and has attended two trials in the last three weeks for people who have had family members killed.

"I know when talking to those victims...about people, someone who's killed somebody being able to drive again, their opinion is that they shouldn't ever be allowed to get behind the wheel of a car again," Swinson said.

"So I know that all the victims...will be very, very supportive of these actions."

Ontario already has an ignition interlock program, Sarkaria said, but it currently doesn't apply to first offences nor is it mandatory.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 15, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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