What does "impaired driving" mean?

Impaired driving is most widely known as driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, many people don't realize it also can mean driving while being sleep deprived too. If you are impaired, you can be convicted of several offences under the Criminal Code of Canada. Your vehicle does not even have to be moving; you can be charged if you are impaired behind the wheel, even if you have not started to drive.

What is my Blood Alcohol Concentration (or BAC) and how do breathalyzers work?

The term Blood Alcohol Concentration refers to the amount of alcohol in your blood. In Canada, BAC is usually expressed as the weight of alcohol in a given volume of blood.

BAC can easily be measured in your breath by using a breathalyzer. When you've consumed alcohol, alcohol molecules pass into the air in the lungs from your blood. When you blow into a breathalyzer, these alcohol molecules are expelled with the air and the concentration of alcohol in your blood can be measured. This is as accurate as a blood test.

What is my maximum allowable BAC?

The maximum legal blood alcohol concentration for fully licensed drivers is 80* milligrams in 100 millilitres of blood (.08). Any more than .08 is against the law.

Restrictions for graduated or probationary licensed drivers (G1/G2 in Ontario and Class 7 in other provinces) differ. Most provinces require that new drivers maintain a zero blood alcohol level.

Can I be charged with an impaired driving offence if my BAC is below the legal limit?

You can be charged with a criminal offence for driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs, regardless of your BAC.

Can I refuse to take a breathalyzer test?

It is an offence to refuse to take a breathalyzer test. If you refuse, you will be charged under the Criminal Code. The police will also notify the Registrar of Motor Vehicles and your licence will be suspended immediately for 90 days.

What happens if I am pulled over for impaired driving or I fail a routine breathalyzer test?

Fully licensed drivers (G or Class 5):

If your reading is less than .08 but .05 or more, or if you register 'warn' on a roadside screening device, the police can suspend your licence for 12 hours. If there is no one else available to drive and no safe place to park your vehicle, it will be towed at your expense. You can pick up your licence at the police station after your suspension has ended and you can retrieve your car after paying the towing and storage charges.

If your blood alcohol concentration is more than 80 milligrams in 100 millilitres of blood (.08), you will be charged under the Criminal Code. You licence will be suspended immediately for 90 days. Even if your blood alcohol concentration is less than .08, you can still be charged with impaired driving under the Criminal Code.

Graduated or Probationary licensed drivers (G1/G2 or Class 7):

New drivers must maintain a blood alcohol level of zero when driving. New drivers who breach this condition will get an immediate 30-day licence suspension and must pay a fine. They can also be charged under the Criminal Code.

What happens if I am convicted of my DUI charge?

You will be fined at least $600 and will be prohibited to drive for a minimum of 1 year under the Criminal Code. Your drivers licence will also be suspended for a minimum of 1 year.

In addition, many provinces may also require that you take an alcohol education and treatment program and require that all vehicles you drive be equipped with an approved ignition interlock device.

What is an Ignition Interlock device?

An ignition interlock is an in-car alcohol breath screening device that prevents a vehicle from starting if it detects alcohol on the breath of the operator. These devices are expensive and can cost about $1300.

What if I hurt someone while impaired driving?

If you are convicted of impaired driving causing bodily harm, you may be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. Impaired driving causing death can carry a sentence of up to 14 years in prison.

What if I have an accident while impaired driving?

Your insurance company may not have to pay for damage to your vehicle, and if you are injured in the collision, your medical and rehabilitation costs may not be covered.

How long will my DUI conviction stay on my driving record?

DUI convictions and suspensions remain on your driving record for 3 years.

Will my insurer be informed that I have been convicted of DUI?

No, your insurance company will not automatically be informed of your conviction.

Do I have to report my DUI conviction to my insurer?

If you're applying for insurance with a new company, then yes, you are required to disclose all convictions/tickets, accidents and claims.

If you are already insured, you are not required to notify your insurer. However, most insurers periodically check your driving record, especially for high risk drivers, so they may find out about your conviction. And in that case, your insurance status and rate will be affected.

How can my DUI conviction affect my auto insurance premium?

A DUI conviction can significantly impact your insurance premiums. Your driving record is automatically wiped out after a DUI charge and you have to start from scratch earning the trust of an insurance company. This means your rates could double or triple for the first year alone, and your rates will remain higher than normal for 3 to 6 years following the charge. This can add up to thousands of dollars over the years.

How long will my DUI conviction affect my insurance premiums?

A DUI conviction can affect your insurance rate for 3 to 6 years. While DUI suspensions remain on your driving record for 3 years, depending on the length of the suspension, they can still affect your insurance history for up to 6 years - this varies by insurer.

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* Although accurate at the time of publication, this information is subject to change and Kanetix is not responsible for any damages caused as a result of the information included in this response. Always speak with your current insurance supplier and/or legal advisor to answer your specific questions.

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