Impaired Driving

This is by far one of the most preventable driving offences in Canada, and as such, the repercussions for choosing to drive while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol are severe.  This offence falls under the Criminal Code of Canada.

In the Criminal Code of Canada, the sections to note are:

  • Impaired driving regardless of blood alcohol levels,s.253 (a)
  • Driving with blood alcohol level over 0.08/80 mg.%, s. 253(b)
  • Impaired driving causing bodily harm, s. 255(2)
  • Impaired driving causing death, s. 255(3)
  • Dangerous Driving s. 249 
  • Flight from Police, s. 249.1(1)

If you are convicted of any of the above offences, you will have a criminal record.  This fact alone may seriously impact your life, because it may affect your ability to get the job you want or travel across borders.  In addition, if found guilty, you will have to pay heavy fines, possibly serve time in jail, and lose your licence for a long time.  You can not put a price on the potential pain and anguish you may cause to others as a result of your decision to drive while impaired.

The Cost of Impaired Driving

Here is a break down of the actual financial expense of impaired driving.


Legal Costs (estimated range) $2,000 – $10,000
Criminal Code fine (First Offence) $800 - $1,000
Planning Ahead program $220
Impact Program $750
Administrative Monetary Penalty for licence reinstatement $250
Towing Charge $60
Impound Lot ($15 / day) $450
Increased insurance
($3,0000 extra per year for 3 yrs)
(estimate) $9,000
Ignition Interlock $1,100
Total Minimum Cost*
(plus applicable taxes on some items)
$14,630 – $22,830

Actual costs may be higher
* Other potential costs include property damage, loss of employment income and uninsured medical costs.

The Cost of a Sober Driver

Cab Fare (Approximately) $10 – $50
Designated Driver $0

Traffic Safety Act

The provincial legislation, the Traffic Safety Act, dictates how long you will be disqualified from driving in Alberta if you are convicted of impaired driving.  Most people found guilty of impaired driving under the Criminal Code (s. 253 and 254), will lose their licence for at least one year starting from the day you were found guilty (s. 83(1) of the Traffic Safety Act)

The disqualification is 3 years if the person has one prior conviction (and 5 years if the person has 2 prior convictions) in the past ten years, under sections 253 or 254 of the Criminal Code.  If the 2 prior convictions arose from the same incident, then the convictions are treated as 1 offence and disqualification is for 1 year. 

For impaired driving charges that occur anywhere in Canada, that person is disqualified from driving in Alberta for 6 months from the day they are found guilty. 

Alberta Administrative Licence Suspension Program

Alberta has a program called the Alberta Administrative Licence Suspension Program.  It enables police officers to get drunk drivers off the road, even if the driver has NOT yet been convicted of impaired driving.  Under s. 88 of the Traffic Safety Act, a police officer may require that a person surrender his/her driver’s licence if:

  • the police officer has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that a driver’s blood alcohol level is over 0.08 mg% (usually after a breathalyzer test); OR
  • the police officer has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that, while the driver has alcohol in the body, fails or refuses to comply with a breath demand. Under this program, a police officer will issue a driver’s licence suspension for 3 months or 6 months for alcohol-related offences.  No conviction is necessary. 

If the driver is in an accident causing bodily harm or death, the suspension is 6 months. The suspension comes into effect immediately.  However, depending on the circumstances, the police officer may give you a 21 day temporary driving permit. But your licence will be suspended after the 21 days have expired. 

If you feel that your licence should not have been suspended, you may appeal to the Transportation Safety Board. 

There is a fee for any appeal hearing ($125.00 for a non-personal hearing or $250.00 for an in-person hearing before the Board, plus Registry Agent fees).  There is a 30 day limitation period for appeals (30 days from the date of issue of the Notice of Suspension / Disqualification).  You must have valid grounds for appeal in order to have your case heard.  If you can prove that you did not have a blood or breath sample which was over 80 mg%, or if you can prove that you did not refuse to provide a blood or breath sample, then you may have valid grounds for appeal

Inconvenience or hardship caused by the suspension is not a good enough reason to appeal. 

But, if you are found not guilty of the offence you are charged with, or are found guilty of a lesser offence, you must STILL appeal your licence suspension to the Alberta Transportation Safety Board. A notice of suspension will be sent to the most recent address you gave to the department of motor vehicles.  It is your responsibility to give a new address to the Department of Motor Vehicles if you move.

The Ignition Interlock Program

This program is a way to monitor drivers who were previously convicted of impaired driving.  How it works is a device that detects alcohol is attached to the ignition of a vehicle.  If the device detects a level of alcohol on the driver’s breath, the vehicle will not start.    

Drivers convicted of impaired driving causing bodily harm or death are NOT eligible for this program.   The Transportation Safety Board monitors the device, and drivers who are issued a “fail” or “warning” may not be allowed to participate in the Program anymore. To be eligible for the program, the following conditions must be met:    

  1. Conviction must be for a s. 253 or s. 254 offence – not impaired driving causing bodily harm or death.
  2. Driver must have served the court-ordered driving prohibition period; this period will be at least 3 months for a first offence and at least 6 months for a second offence.
  3. The court must have approved the driver’s participation in the Ignition Interlock Program.
  4. If the driver is a first time offender, he/she must also attend the “Planning Ahead” course.
  5. If the driver is a repeat offender, he/she must also attend the “Impact” course and attend a hearing in person.
  6. The driver may not have any outstanding fines or un-served suspensions.
  7. Attendance in the Ignition Interlock Program must be for at least 6 months.
  8. To be approved for exit from the program, the driver may not have any readings of “warning” or “fail” in the last 3 months.

Costs for the Ignition Interlock Program include:  

  1. A one-time installation/removal fee of $125.00
  2. A $95.00/month rental fee
  3. Application fee of $63.00 and Registry Agent fee
  4. $130.00 for the “Planning Ahead” course and $260.00 for the “Impact” course.  

Getting back in the Driver’s Seat 

Even though your suspension period may be finished you cannot get your licence back until you have completed all of the conditions listed on the notice of suspension sent to you.  Even if you move outside of Alberta, you must still fulfill these obligations.  Some basic conditions that must be met are:            

  1. completion of an impaired driving course;  
  2. completion of Planning Ahead, a one day educational course;           
  3. completion of IMPACT, a weekend pretreatment course; AND
  4. completion of a drivers examination and payment of the licence reinstatement fee. You must give a registry agent  proof that you have completed the conditions outlined. 

After doing this you will receive a written notice that you can drive legally again.  Then you can apply for a new licence.


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