Legislative Background: reforms to the Transportation Provisions of the Criminal Code (Bill C-46)

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Annex 5 – International experience with mandatory alcohol screening

Mandatory alcohol screening has been used in Finland since 1977 and in Australia since the 1980s where it is called Random Breath Testing (“RBT”). Most Australian states brought RBT into force at the same time as they lowered the BAC limit from 80 to 50 making it difficult to apportion the deterrent effect between the two measures. RBT is also in force in Japan and New Zealand.

On April 6, 2004, the European Commission made 19 recommendations to achieve the objective of reducing the annual number of road deaths in the EU by 50 % by 2010 including:

6. ensure the application of random breath testing with an alcohol screening device as a leading principle for surveillance of drink-driving and in such a way as to guarantee its effectiveness; with a view to this, in any event ensure that random breath testing is carried out regularly in places where and at times when non-compliance occurs regularly and where this brings about an increased risk of accidents, and ensure that officers carrying out random breath testing checks use evidential breath test devices whenever they suspect drink-driving.

RBT is now in use in 22 European countries.

Republic of Ireland
Mandatory alcohol testing (MAT) came into force in Ireland in July 2006 and was credited by the Road Safety Authority with reducing the number of people being killed on Irish roads by almost a quarter (23%) in the eleven month period since the introduction of MAT compared to the previous eleven month period. In 2005, the last full year in Ireland without MAT, road fatalities were 398. By 2009, fatalities on Ireland’s roads had declined to 238, a reduction of 39.9% from 2005. In 2010, Ireland lowered the legal limit from a BAC of 80 to a BAC of 50. By 2016, road fatalities had declined to 139, a decrease of 64.9% over 11 years.
New Zealand
RBT was introduced in 1993 along with other measures to combat impaired driving and increase enforcement and a media campaign. The cumulative crash reduction was 54%: 32% was credited to aggressively visible RBT checkpoints and 22% to the other measures.
Queensland, Australia
RBT was introduced in Queensland on December 1, 1988. During the first year of implementation, Queensland experienced a 19% reduction in all serious accidents (789) and a 35% reduction in all fatal accidents (194). The long-term effects of RBT in Queensland could not be estimated at the time since the data for the years prior to 1986 was inadequate. It should be noted that the study also found an 18% reduction in fatal accidents as a result of the introduction of a 50 BAC limit and a reduction of 15% as a result of enhanced police enforcement through a “Reduce Intoxicated Driving” campaign.
Tasmania, Australia
RBT was introduced on January 6, 1983. During the first year of implementation, Tasmania experienced a 24% reduction in all serious accidents.
Victoria, Australia
RBT was introduced in Victoria in 1976 and was re-structured in 1989. In 1977, 49% of all drivers killed were found to be in excess of 50 BAC. In 1992 that figure was reduced to 21%.
Western Australia

RBT was introduced in Western Australia on October 1, 1988. During the first year of implementation, Western Australia experienced a 28% reduction in all fatal collisions (72). The long-term effect of RBT in Western Australia has been:

  • 13% reduction in all serious accidents;
  • 28% reduction of all fatal accidents;
  • 26% reduction in single-vehicle night-time accidents.
New South Wales, Australia

RBT was introduced in New South Wales on December 17, 1982. Taking into account, and thereby controlling, factors such as weather information, road usage indicators, time factors and the BAC 50 legislation introduced in December 1980, it was found that RBT is extremely effective.

The initial effect of RBT on total fatal accidents was extremely marked, with a drop of 48% that was sustained for a period of 4.5 months. The initial impact on all serious accidents was a 19% decline that was sustained for a period of 15 months. The initial impact on single-vehicle night-time accidents was a 26% decline that lasted a period of 10 years.

The New South Wales program, including media publicity, cost approximately $3.5 million in 1990 Australian currency annually. The random breath testing program is estimated conservatively to save 200 lives each year, with savings to the community of at least $140 million in 1990 Australian currency each year.