Driving while impaired: Éduc’alcool in favour of random breath testing to increase the perception that the law will be enforced

Since it increases people’s perception that they are likely to be stopped if they drive while impaired and simplifies police procedures, Éduc’alcool supports the Government of Québec’s request to make random breath testing (RBT) legal as a means to prevent accidents due to alcohol abuse and improve road safety. This is the conclusion of a study conducted by the organization, which decided to analyze all the issues around this measure, advocated by the Government of Québec.

The Government of Québec has asked the federal government to legalise the use of random breath testing which allows the police to stop any and all drivers at random and require them to take a breath test, even if there is no reason to suspect that there is alcohol in the driver’s body. This measure is different from the selective breath testing which allows police to ask a driver to take a breath test only if they suspect the person’s blood alcohol concentration is above the legal limit.

According to the study conducted by Éduc’alcool, RBT has contributed to improving road safety in regions where they have been implemented. It is true that we cannot isolate its impact from that of other measures that have been implemented simultaneously. And clearly, road safety without RBT in Québec and all of Canada is no worse than in some countries it is used. But when it comes to alcohol-related road accidents, Canada does poorly. Preventively speaking, RBT should be viewed favourably.

Although adopted in dozens of democratic countries, the measure raises some concerns. Defenders of civil liberties have criticized it, notably the Québec Bar.

Éduc’alcool is well aware of the arguments that ask whether the results obtained justify the restriction of civil liberties. These arguments have been included in the analysis. However, given the hundreds of people who are injured or killed every year by impaired drivers, Éduc’alcool believes that rather than asking whether RBT is a breach of basic rights and freedoms, we should ask whether it serves the common good.

Éduc’alcool has always based its positions on rigorous scientific research. In addition, the organization takes a very strong position with regard to impaired driving: before changing the legal BAC limit, we must increase the perceived likelihood of apprehension for impaired driving.

For a prevention and education-focused organization like Éduc’alcool, which for years has stated, as its absolute priority with regard to drinking and driving, the importance of increasing the perceived likelihood that people will be stopped if they drive while impaired and to simplify police procedure, the choice is logical and consistent.

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