Policeman Holding Breathalyzer - Toronto Police Enforce Mandatory Breathalyzer Tests

Toronto Police Enforce Mandatory Breathalyzer Tests

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) has rolled out a new initiative requiring mandatory breathalyzer tests for every traffic stop in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). This decision is part of an intensified campaign to curb the rising trend of impaired driving in the region.

Strongest Measures Yet: Mandatory Breathalyzer Tests

The OPP is utilizing the full extent of Canada’s 2018 Mandatory Alcohol Screening (MAS) law, which empowers police to demand a breath test from any driver, regardless of whether there is a suspicion of alcohol consumption. OPP Sergeant Kerry Schmidt emphasized that drivers will now need to provide a breath sample even if they are stopped for unrelated infractions like speeding or using a cell phone.

“Driving is a privilege,” Schmidt said. “We want to make sure that the drivers who are operating vehicles are not impaired.”

Rising Impaired Driving Cases

Schmidt highlighted a 30% increase in impaired driving charges over the past five years, with 11,000 cases reported in 2023, compared to 8,800 in 2019. He also noted that 51 people died last year in alcohol or drug-related crashes in Ontario.

The OPP says the mandatory breathalyzer tests will apply to all drivers stopped on highways and roads patrolled by their officers in the GTA, which has seen the highest rise in impaired driving collisions. The initiative is set to be re-evaluated to determine whether it should expand to the entire province.

“If we just check everyone, it’s going to ensure that we are consistent across the region,” Schmidt said.

Universal Screening for Fairness

Sergeant Schmidt insists that the mandatory testing is non-discriminatory and will apply to everyone.

“There is no bias. Everyone is being tested,” he stated. “It’s fair for all motorists and there is no community or group that should feel that they are being targeted.”

Zero Tolerance for Commercial Drivers

Ontario has a zero-tolerance policy for commercial drivers and young or novice drivers under 21. Those with G1, G2, M1, or M2 licenses, or driving vehicles requiring an A-F license or CVOR must have zero blood alcohol content. Drivers with a full G license will face penalties if their Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) registers at or above 0.08%, or in a warning range between 0.05% and 0.079%.

Legal Implications and Compliance

Refusing to comply with a breath sample demand will result in a criminal charge. Drivers are legally obligated to provide a sample under the MAS law, and failure to do so could lead to charges for refusal under the Criminal Code.

“Drivers who do not comply with a breath demand could be charged for failure or refusal to comply under the Criminal Code,” the OPP stated.

Support from Anti-Drunk Driving Advocates

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada praised the move. MADD CEO Steve Sullivan emphasized that the increased risk of getting caught will deter people from driving under the influence.

“If you think there’s a better likelihood police are going to catch you, you’ll change your behavior,” Sullivan said.

According to the Department of Justice, research shows that up to 50% of drivers with a BAC over the legal limit may not be detected at roadside checks. Sullivan noted that mandatory alcohol screening will help identify impaired drivers who might otherwise go unnoticed.

“Police, just going on suspicion, miss a lot of actual impaired drivers,” he said.

Charter Concerns Raised by Civil Liberties Group

Despite the support from MADD and other organizations, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) expressed concerns about the constitutionality of the policy. Shakir Rahim, director of criminal justice for the CCLA, argued that the initiative violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects individuals from unreasonable searches.

“We agree that drunk driving is a serious problem that has to be addressed, but we think that there are more Charter-compliant and still effective ways to do so,” Rahim said.

The CCLA opposed the 2018 MAS law and contends that other jurisdictions have shown no definitive link between mandatory breathalyzer tests and a decrease in impaired driving.

Looking Ahead

The mandatory breathalyzer tests policy at every traffic stop marks the OPP’s strongest measure to date in tackling impaired driving. The initiative is seen by supporters as a proactive step toward reducing road accidents and saving lives, while critics worry about potential infringements on civil liberties. How effective this policy will be in addressing impaired driving remains to be seen, but for now, Toronto-area drivers should be prepared for mandatory alcohol screening at every traffic stop.

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