In 2010 the Province of British Columbia introduced new impaired driving legislation. The legislation resulted in most impaired driving allegations being dealt with by way of a 3, 7, 30 or 90 day administrative driving prohibition rather than a criminal charge.
Since 2010 the administrative impaired driving legislation scheme has been the subject of various court challenges based on the fairness of the review process. While the administrative penalties imposed by the scheme are less than what would occur in the event of a criminal conviction for impaired driving, there is an ongoing concern that innocent people may be punished as the review process is much less stringent than in a criminal case.
The central point made by Province of BC officials, including the Attorney General, has been that the provincial impaired driving scheme was effective in saving lives. The Attorney General has been repeatedly quoted as saying that the scheme had saved 260 lives since 2010. Similar submissions were made by lawyers acting for the Province of BC in a Supreme Court of Canada case that reviewed the constitutionality of the legislative scheme.
In British Columbia, we have a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. This act requires the province and other public bodies to provide information in their possession upon request from members of the public. It requires that such requests be complied with in 30 business days absent exceptional circumstances.
Despite these legislative requirements and multiple requests, commencing in February of 2014, it took until January of 2016 for a report on the actual effectiveness of the 2010 impaired driving legislation to be disclosed to our office.
In addition to failing to comply with the Freedom of Information timing requirements, the report finally released by ICBC casts serious doubt on the statistical claims made in support of the impaired driving scheme.
The report, dated January 2015 and marked “for internal ICBC use only”, indicates that as a result of a lack of control data and reliable statistics as to the factors that contributed to accidents “… it would not be possible to say whether any observed changes in collision frequency over time were due to the IDI [Impaired Driving Initiative] or to the many other factors (e.g., weather, other road safety enforcement initiatives, traffic density, road improvements, availability of public transportation, etc.”
The report points out that the databased of crash information created by the police included no information as to what factors contributed to, on average, 17% of fatal accidents. This incomplete database further undermined any attempt to assess the effectiveness of the 2010 impaired driving scheme as it can’t be determined if the fatal accidents without any contributing factor information were, in fact, caused by drivers who were impaired by alcohol.
When a legislative scheme is being debated and considered by the courts it is vitally important that this be done on the basis of reliable information. The failure to provide such information in a timely way may have resulted in important decision having been made on the basis of misleading statistics and claims of effectiveness.
The Report on British Columbia’s 2010 Impaired Driving Initiative can be found here: F244353 – IDI Draft Report Jan 2015
The letter covering the report and apologizing for exceeding the legislated time frames for disclosure can be found here: F244353 – Response letter (note: the response letter from ICBC is also misdated – it was sent in January of 2016, not January of 2015)
Discussion of issue on CFAX 1070 Legally Speaking: