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Impaired driving

Impaired driving is when your ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired by alcohol or drug.

Penalties for a first offence are:

  • license suspension (Canada-wide) for an average of one year;
  • an average $1,500 fine;
  • higher insurance costs; and,
  • cross border implications.

Effective Sept. 1, 2012 new legislation pertaining to 0.05BAC (Blood/Breath Alcohol Concentration) resulting in immediate roadside sanctions was implemented. For more information, view the Government of Alberta’s website with information on Bill 26.

How do I report a driver that seems to be impaired?

Call 9-1-1. Do not attempt to follow the driver or place yourself in danger.

How does Calgary Police Service (CPS) police this?

CPS polices impaired driving through regular street enforcement and is one of the only municipalities in North America that has a CHECKSTOP program 52 weeks of the year.

How many impaired driving convictions does CPS handle?

On average, in the Calgary area approximately 2,700 impaired driving charged are laid every year. This number includes those charged with being over .08/impaired as we usually lay both charges as part of the investigation.

Of all the fatality and serious injury collisions investigated in Calgary approximately one-third of the collisions involve an impaired driver.

Drinking and driving puts people's lives and property at risk, so identifying the signs can help stop drunk drivers before it's too late.

How much can I drink and still be able to drive?

The only safe level is "0." Be responsible!

Alcohol affects everyone differently. There are many factors that can increase the effects of alcohol on an individual.

What device do you use to establish how much drink or drugs someone has had?

CPS uses the Alco-Sensor FST as the approved screening device to detect the presence of alcohol and the Intoxilyzer 5000C as the instrument that provides the amount of alcohol in the person’s body.

Drug classification is established through an evaluation of a driver in accordance with the Drug Recognition Evaluation program. This initially includes a Standardized Field Sobriety Testing and if necessary a full evaluation.

Do I have to give a breath sample?

If an officer reads a Criminal Code Demand (screening device or evidential) to a person they are required to provide a breath sample.

What happens if I refuse to give a breath sample?

You will be charged under the Criminal Code for refusing to provide a breath sample which carries the same jeopardy as being charged with impaired driving.

I heard there are ways someone can give a false sample, like smoking, chewing gum, or putting a penny under the tongue. Do they work?

No. The instruments used for investigating impaired driving are designed to detect alcohol, nothing else. All persons providing breath samples will have their mouth checked for foreign objects prior to providing breath samples.

Can you receive an impaired on a bike?


What’s the difference between DUI and DWI?

DUI (driving under the influence) and DWI (driving while impaired) are American terms that both have the same meaning of the Canadian term of Impaired Driving.

Can I get an impaired in the morning?

Yes. Alcohol only will eliminate from your body at a certain rate. If you went to bed with a high blood alcohol concentration and didn’t wait for the alcohol to eliminate from your body, you run the chance of still being impaired and if caught being charged.

What is the offence committed if someone is driving under the influence of a drug?

Section 253(1)(a) is the criminal code section that deals with the offence of impaired driving and includes if someone is impaired by a drug.

How is it determined if someone is impaired by a drug?

If an officer has a reasonable suspicion that a driver is impaired by a drug the Criminal Code of Canada gives the police the power to demand that a person perform a physical sobriety test at the road side that is conducted by a trained evaluating officer. If the evaluating officer determines the driver is impaired then the driver can be arrested for impaired driving.

If the officer has formed the opinion that a person is impaired by a drug then a Drug Recognition Expert will be called in to determine if the person is impaired and what drug category the person is impaired by.

What is the penalty for impaired driving under the influence of a drug?

The penalties for driving under the influence of a drug are the same as for driving under the influence of alcohol.

What if I refuse to comply with the demand for the field sobriety test or the tests to be performed by a Drug Recognition Expert?

Under section 254(5) of the criminal code you would be charged with refusing to comply and charged criminally, and the consequences would be the same as failing to comply or refusal of a breath demand.

Can I be arrested for driving under the influence of a prescription drug?

Yes. If you are impaired by the prescription drug you can be charged for driving while impaired. Some prescription drugs specifically say not to operate a motor vehicle if you are taking that drug or if it is not being taken as prescribed you could be legally impaired.

Is there a roadside device that can detect drug impairment?

No, drug impairment can only be determined by a properly trained police officer with the use of a Standardized Field Sobriety Test.

Criminal code impaired driving charges

2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Impaired Driving Causing Death (alcohol) 1 2 3 0 2 3
Impaired Driving Causing Death (drugs) 0 0 0 0 0 0
Impaired Driving Causing Bodily Harm (alcohol) 19 19 19 12 9 9
Impaired Driving Causing Bodily Harm (drugs) 0 0 1 1 1 0
Impaired Driving Over 80 mg 1,020 1,147 1,030 1,091 1,060 1,068
Impaired Driving (alcohol) 1,285 1,381 1,353 1,378 1,395 1,367
Impaired Driving (drugs) 0 0 1 1 1 0
Total Fail/Refuse Charges (alcohol) 261 270 345 299 391 353
Total Fail/Refuse Charges (drugs) 0 0 1 2 2 0


2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Alberta Administrative Licence Suspension (AALS) program - charge of impaired/over .08 1,099 1,016 929 1,091 1,241 1,309
Alberta Zero Alcohol Tolerance (AZAT) - for graduated licence 140 208 218 297 323 362
24 Hour 2,846 3,179 2,552 2,373 2,304 1,606
Immediate Roadside Sanctions (IRS) - Bill 26 3 day licence suspension and vehicle seizure - progressive in length 134