Society

Random Refusal: Drunk Driving and Sobriety Tests

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I have always been a staunch anti-drinking and driving advocate. Long have I supported stronger laws and consequences for those morons who still get behind the wheel after downing a few pints.

In fact, some have accused me of wanting the law to go too far with my belief that there should be a suspension of a driver's licence for one year after first offence, and a driving ban for life for second offence. No third strike required.

Like so many others, I have lost someone close to me because of a drunk driver. I have seen the damage first hand, including one unforgettable instance of caring for a victim on the roadside until help arrived. That kind of experience shapes your opinion to be sure.

Therefore, I consider my opposition to drinking and driving solid and unquestionable.

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However, when I heard that the Conservative government was considering following the lead of countries like Australia by instituting a form of 'random' breathalyser tests, I had to voice my opposition.

With all due respect to those fine folks at MADD, there is a danger here that the balance of personal liberty and community safety will be knocked off kilter.

There are already effective Checkstops that are routinely performed by our police. Usually they are set up during 'peak' hours for drunk drivers, namely Friday and Saturday nights, as well as other not-so-obvious times.

Some would say that the random policy is just an expansion of the Checkstop idea, or that the only ones who have to worry are those who break the law.

Fair enough, but I would suggest that there are other ways to combat the problem, including tougher sentencing like I have suggested. I would think that if someone knows that they will lose the privilege of driving for life if they get behind the wheel after a night at the bar, that would be an effective deterrent.

We need a justice system that holds impaired drivers to account for their actions, and judges who will actually follow through. No spin, no 'good behaviour', no leniency.

That would free up our Finest to deal with other crimes like the rampant gang activity in our cities, just as an example.

The biggest issue that I have with this proposal is in the area of my rights and freedoms, and the slippery slope that this law could send us down.

If it is the middle of a weekday and I am travelling from my home to a different town to take my mother to a doctor's appointment, and an officer of the law pulls me over and demands a breath test, I would ask the officer on what basis is his request. If the response is 'random', then I suppose you would be reading my name in the papers, because I would absolutely refuse.

When a government begins to create policy that essentially forms a 'assumed guilty until proven innocent' mindset, we enter dangerous territory.

That isn't what a free society is supposed to embrace.

Moreover, that isn't something I would expect from a government that calls itself 'conservative'.