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B.C. studies Ontario's approach to cases of impaired driving

Nov 25 2011

The B.C. government is studying Ontario's model of making impaired driving penalties open to public scrutiny, but will not be moving on the issue any time soon, Solicitor General Shirley Bond said Thursday.

B.C.'s stiff new fines, vehicle impoundments and licence suspensions related to drunk driving are imposed in secret and not considered public records.

That means you might never know if your local mayor, MLA, daycare provider or child's school bus driver has been fined or lost their licence for impaired driving.

By contrast, Ontario has offered public snapshots of driving records since 1973, which shows such things as criminal convictions, licence suspensions and demerit point totals.

"Our staff is looking at the Ontario model and making sure we understand the rationale there," Bond said. "We want to be really careful about what information is made public, making sure people have appropriate ability to appeal."

Although it is "certainly an interesting idea," Bond said there are complexities to adding transparency to B.C.'s new impaired-driving prohibition process. Before the government could divulge personal information there would need to be a significant discussion with the province's privacy commissioner. "It's not something I've spent a lot of time thinking about," she said.

B.C. brought the new administrative penalties into effect last year in an attempt to increase immediate consequences for drunk driving and ease the burden on the courts. Drivers who used to be charged with impaired driving in the public court system had their cases publicly known.

Ontario's Transportation Ministry has previously told the Times Colonist it releases drivers records for consumer protection and road-safety purposes. That allows a person to check the driving record of a person they are loaning their vehicle to, or employers to check the driving records of employees driving company-owned cars.

The B.C. government said Wednesday that impaired-related fatal crashes fell 40 per cent during the first year of the new prohibitions.

rshaw@timescolonist.com

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