Mr. Speaker, I say at the outset that I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Langley—Abbotsford.
At the start of my presentation, I want to draw attention to the fact that in this debate we want to clearly understand that many thousands of victims are killed every year. I think the number is up to 1,700 victims of drunk driving or of accidents involving alcohol. I noted in my brief remarks a few minutes ago that all too often it is the young.
We are rapidly approaching one of the worst possible times of the year for drunk driving. As the incidents of drunk driving go up, unfortunately so do the fatalities and the injuries around Christmastime. Another time of the year is at graduation time with our young people.
Last year a poem appeared in the Alaska Highway News in my hometown. I want to read a couple of excerpts from it because it quite pointedly cuts to the real problem.
I went to a party, Mom, I remembered what you said. You told me not to drink, Mom, so I drank soda instead. I really felt proud inside, Mom, the way you said I would. I didn't drink and drive, Mom, even though the others said I should.
I started to drive away, Mom, but as I pulled out into the road, the other car didn't see me, Mom, and hit me like a load. As I lay there on the pavement, Mom, I hear the policeman say, the other guy is drunk, Mom, and now I'm the one who will pay.
Why do people drink, Mom? It can ruin your whole life. I'm feeling sharp pains now. Pains just like a knife. The guy who hit me is walking, Mom, and I don't think it's fair. I'm lying here dying and all he can do is stare.
Someone should have told him, Mom, not to drink and drive. If only they had told him, Mom, I would still be alive.
My breath is getting shorter, Mom, I'm becoming very scared. Please don't cry for me, Mom. When I needed you, you were always there. I have one last question, Mom, before I say goodbye. I didn't drink and drive, so why am I the one to die?
That really sums up the issue here. It is the innocent who are being killed by drunk drivers time and time again. I do not think this government or previous governments have even begun to adequately address this issue. It is critical that the House act on this motion.
Impaired drivers have been literally getting away with murder, with little or no consequence for their deadly habits. We have all heard the statistics echoed time and time again during the debate today. Too many families are suffering because the lives of loved ones were cut short by drunk drivers. Too many convicted impaired drivers get behind the wheel again and again, never changing their drinking and driving behaviour. For some, even killing a child does not stop them.
Scott Wilson was only 15 when he was killed by a drunk driver in 1985. The driver, Owen Bradshaw, hit a hay wagon loaded with a minor hockey team, their friends and families. Bradshaw fled the scene as Scott lay dying and 18 other people lay injured by his criminal act.
This was not the first time he had been caught drinking and driving, it was the third. He had two previous impaired convictions. He only received a $175 fine for his first conviction and spent 30 days in jail for the second. For killing Scott, he was sentenced to two years imprisonment plus one year for fleeing the scene of the accident, but he only served one-third of the three year sentence before being paroled in December 1987.
You would think his conscience would not let him continue to drive and drink, but he was convicted of drunk driving again in 1991. On his fourth offence he received a six month jail term and was prohibited from driving for three years. Did he change? No. On his birthday last year Bradshaw backed a van into a police cruiser that had pulled in behind him. When it went to trial the crown recommended locking him up for three years but the judge gave him only nine months and recommended that he be granted immediate temporary passes so he could continue to work during the day. His ex-wife had told the court how important his child support payments were to put food on the table for their children. He should have thought about his family before he picked up the beer. He should have thought about Scott's family when he picked up the keys. He has been convicted of drunk driving five times. How many times has he driven while impaired? I would doubt that even he knows.
Bradshaw is just one of many drunk drivers with multiple impaired offences still on the road today. They do not change even after fines and prison terms. Many continue to drive with their licences suspended, still drinking and still driving, hoping the police will not catch them.
Bradshaw, unfortunately, is just one but not even the worst example. Sadly there are countless others. One man killed five girls in Winnipeg on his 51st offence.
There are at least two types of impaired drivers, the ones who get charged once and never drink and drive again, and the ones who get charged but continue to drink and drive with extremely high blood alcohol levels. It is the second type in particular that our laws must focus on, the hardcore drinkers. They will drink and drive until they injure or kill themselves or someone else. Yet they refuse to change.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 12% of hardcore drunk drivers killed around 1,300 Canadians last year alone. For these people we must consider an alternative that will save lives.
Other people here today have talked about the need for stiffer penalties, and I certainly concur with them. However, I would like to focus on another deterrent for drunk driving, something that has been proven effective in both the United States and Alberta where it has been available since 1990. On Monday last I introduced Bill C-266, a bill that would empower judges to sentence impaired drivers to ignition interlock programs. I believe it is one part of a deterrence package that this House should seriously consider.
For members who have not heard of it, an ignition interlock is an electronic device with a breath alcohol analyser, a micro-computer and an internal memory that interconnects with the ignition and other control systems of a vehicle. It measures the blood alcohol level of the driver and prevents the vehicle from starting if the alcohol level exceeds a certain level. In other words, it only lets the operator drive if he or she is sober.
It has been proven that current methods of sanction and rehabilitation do not work for most hardcore drinking drivers. However, the interlock is an immediate and effective deterrent against drunk driving for the participants in the program. People in the program have a licence that only allows them to operate vehicles with an ignition interlock. Every 30 to 60 days the internal memory of the interlock is read and recorded. The report details every driving event, the results of all tests and any attempts to circumvent the system. Where other members of the family must have access to the vehicle they too can be taught how to use the device.
There are currently programs in Alberta, in 30 U.S. jurisdictions and Quebec will start a program on December 1.
Michael Weinerath, currently teaching at the University of Winnipeg, evaluated the results of the ignition interlock program in Alberta. He concluded that the ignition interlock cases were 4.4 times less likely to record a new serious driving violation and 3.9 times less likely to be involved in an injury collision. Clearly the interlock system teaches impaired drivers to modify their own behaviour much more effectively than jail or other treatment programs. Not only does the interlock keep impaired drivers off the road when they have been drinking but, more important, it teaches them to keep themselves off the road when they have been drinking.
Where a person requires their vehicle for work and a judge thinks a suspension would be an undue hardship, the ignition interlock provides the public with an added measure of safety.
The police cannot be everywhere but the interlock can be there every day and every night, all the time. In most jurisdictions the interlock is installed for a set period of time but I believe there is a better alternative. We could make the program mandatory until such time as the drunk driver changes his or her behaviour. Some people modify their behaviour within a couple of months, but others never learn. Those are the ones we need to stop.
People convicted of impaired driving, particularly those who have killed or injured someone, should not be able to start their cars let alone drive if they have been drinking, and the interlock stops them. If they cannot start their car, they will not be on the road killing people. And if they are caught driving a vehicle without the device, then lock them up.
We do not give a lethal weapon to a known sociopath who has been convicted of murder. So why do we let impaired drivers who have shown no regard for human life continue to drink and drive? I say let us consider the ignition interlock as part of an overall deterrence package. We owe it to Scott Wilson and the hundreds of other Canadians who are killed by drunk drivers every year.