Victoria, British Columbia – British Columbia is introducing Canada’s most immediate and severe impaired driving penalties in an effort to curb repeat offenders and give police more enforcement tools.

Under the changes to the Motor Vehicle Act, drivers who provide a failing breath sample above 0.08 per cent BAC, or who refuse to provide a breath sample at the roadside, will face an immediate 90-day driving ban and a $500 fine, and the vehicle will be impounded for 30 days. These drivers may also face criminal charges.

“Despite increased enforcement and significant efforts to promote awareness, we’ve begun to see a rise in impaired driving across British Columbia,” said Solicitor General Michael de Jong. “That trend is unacceptable and that’s why we’re bringing in these new laws: to get impaired drivers off the road with clear, swift and severe penalties.”

De Jong also announced a provincial goal of reducing alcohol-impaired driving fatalities by 35 per cent by the end of 2013. The goal is in memory of Alexa Middelaer, a four-year-old killed by an alleged drunk driver in Delta two years ago.

Drivers caught once in the “warn” range, between 0.05 and 0.08 BAC, in a five-year period will face an immediate three-day driving ban and a $200 fine. If caught a second time, they will face a seven-day ban and $300 fine, and a third time, a 30-day ban and $400 fine. Research shows that driving with a BAC in that range means a driver is seven times more likely to be in a fatal crash than one with no alcohol in the body.

In addition, drivers who blow once in the “fail” range, or three times within five years in the “warn” range, will be required to participate in the rehabilitative Responsible Driver Program and will have to use an ignition interlock device on their vehicle for one year.

The new, roadside-issued 90-day bans mean officers will no longer need to take drivers to a police station for a full breath analysis in order to impose a driving ban longer than 24 hours.

The changes are expected to come into effect in the fall of 2010. For more information on the changes, visit Government of British Columbia.

Connect with Autos.ca