April 2, 2007

MADD Canada praises Nova Scotia government, condemns New Brunswick drunk-driving sentence

Oakville, Ontario – Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada has praised the Nova Scotia government for introducing a zero blood alcohol concentration (BAC) legal limit for all novice drivers, while it condemns the sentence of house arrest for a New Brunswick man convicted of driving while impaired and killing a cyclist.

The Nova Scotia BAC legal limit applies to all novice drivers for the first five years of their driving. “We have been working with government officials for some time on these changes, and Government Ministers told us that these graduated licensing measures would come,” says Karen Dunham, MADD Canada National President. “So it is good to see this legislation that will effectively safeguard novice drivers and, hopefully, help to develop good driving habits with a younger generation. The zero BAC for five years will reduce impaired driving crashes and will save lives.”

Nova Scotia Transport Minister Angus MacIsaac has proposed several changes to the province’s graduated licensing program, including the zero BAC; extending the learner’s stage of licensing from six to twelve months; new car signage required for learner and novice drivers; and the introduction of an additional driver competency test within its graduated license program.

In New Brunswick, MADD Canada is urging senators to immediately pass Bill C-9, which disallows conditional sentences for violent crimes, following a sentence passed by Provincial Court Judge Graydon Nicholas of a conditional sentence of house arrest of two years less a day on Peter Leon Howe. In July 2006, Howe consumed 24 bottles of beer and half a bottle of whiskey at a party, drove while impaired, and struck and killed 23-year-old Robbie MacRitchie. Howe will serve his sentence at his mother’s house; the judge said “his review of case law indicates that a conditional sentence of house arrest was appropriate in Howe’s case,” according to MADD.

After the sentencing, Don MacRitchie, father of the victim, said the leniency of house arrest sends the wrong message to everyone about the seriousness of impaired driving charges.

Karen Dunham says that for more than two years, MADD Canada has been demanding that the federal Parliament eliminate the availability of conditional sentences for those convicted of impaired driving causing death or bodily harm. “Our judicial system and politicians have to catch up to the public’s sense of justice and what is both fair and effective sentencing,” Dunham says. “Bill C-9 needs to be passed and we need to put (a) stop to conditional sentences for violent impaired driving crimes.”

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