Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that I will support the bill introduced by my Liberal colleague. We think that it is a way to better detect alcohol. However, the fact remains that the problem of impaired driving is much more complex than that. This is just one of many measures that need to be implemented to better detect impaired driving.
The bill would allow police officers to use passive alcohol detection devices. A passive detection device is a meter with a display of coloured stripes that light up when the presence of alcohol is detected in the ambient air. In order for a police officer to administer a breathalyzer test, he must have grounds to suspect that the person consumed alcohol. That does not necessarily mean that the police officer needs grounds to suspect that the person is drunk, just that he or she consumed alcohol. The police officer can then administer a breathalyzer test.
This device would not be used to collect evidence, but it would help give police officers the grounds they need to conduct breathalyzer tests and perhaps detect more people who have been drinking. It could help prevent impaired driving. Every year, too many families are the victims of impaired driving. That is why we must make use of all of the tools available. However, we need to do a lot more to prevent drunk driving. There are many factors to consider. In rural areas, it is a matter of infrastructure, of public transit, or organizations that provide driver services.
When people do not really have any options for getting home after a night out, it may, unfortunately, make our roads less safe. We need to look at those aspects of the issue. Data indicates that it can take up to three years before a person who regularly drives drunk is caught by the police.
For instance, in our rural regions, people who drink might decide to use back roads that have less traffic to get home, in order to avoid roadside checks. There are also people who drink in the morning. By noon, these people could already be impaired. Roadblocks are more often set up at night. This does not necessarily allow authorities to catch everyone who might be impaired. Furthermore, this might not be the first thing an officer thinks of when they stop someone for running a stop sign at 11 a.m., for example.
Using the tool in question, we would be able to better screen these individuals, so it is a good tool, but we need to do a lot more to discourage people from driving while impaired. Of course, any time we increase the risk of being arrested, the risk of being caught, that can have an impact on the number of drunk drivers, but we need to do a lot more.
Unfortunately, there are people who are repeat offenders. It is really hard to put an end to this. We also see cases where there is no doubt about the person's state. When these people decide to drive while impaired but do not hurt anyone, the consequences are relatively minor, so they may continue doing it for quite a while, and as a result, the safety of the public is at risk during that entire period.
It is therefore important to take a more enlightened approach and examine the problem of drinking and driving in its entirety.
As I said, we will be supporting the measure introduced by my colleague, but it is just one small measure among many much larger initiatives that should be implemented to actually reduce the problem of drinking and driving.
In my riding, a disproportionate number of people drive under the influence. For example, in the RCM of Témiscamingue, which has the smallest population of the four RCMs I represent, there are more drunk driving incidents. It is also the largest RCM in terms of size, and there is little in the way of taxi service.
Ville-Marie is the biggest city in the RCM of Témiscamingue, and I believe there is one single taxi in operation there, and it is not available nights. This points to a lack of infrastructure. There is no taxi service because there is not enough demand, and there are no local services to drive people home. That can cause people to take risks they should not take. Locally, there is a lot of awareness-raising going on. Groups are trying to make people understand that they have to plan how to get home before they start drinking. This work is never done.
Organizations that try to prevent drinking and driving should receive more support, especially in rural regions where people have few alternatives. We cannot tell them to take the bus, walk, or ride their bike. It is simply impossible. Some people live 30 kilometres from town. It is very hard. Taking a taxi is not really an option either.
When it comes to drinking and driving, there has to be a better strategy than passive detection devices. We have to gain a better understanding of the situation and take the time to talk with the people on the ground. We have to talk to people convicted of impaired driving, in order to determine what they could have done to avoid taking the wheel. We have to learn from past mistakes in order to prevent the loss of lives. It is not easy.
As a caregiver, I have seen people arrive at the hospital in the middle of the night who, minutes earlier were behind the wheel of their car with more than twice the potentially lethal limit of alcohol in their blood. Intoxicated is not the word for people like that. They are as drunk as a skunk, if you will pardon the expression.
When we see such situations, we can only hope that more efforts will be made to solve the problem of drunk driving. We have been working on this for years, and I do not believe that we are going to solve the problem by taking a piecemeal approach. We have to have a comprehensive plan. I hope that such a plan will be introduced and that we will take a giant step forward in the fight against impaired driving.
We must not forget that many Canadians have lost a loved one because of drunk driving. I hope that my children will never be exposed to this danger, that I will be able to provide them with infrastructure, and that I will teach them to be responsible when it comes to drinking. I hope that more lives will not be lost and that more families will not be broken.
I am pleased to express my views on this matter. I look forward to following the committee study and I hope that a much more comprehensive plan will emerge.