Canada's already-strict drunk driving laws got stricter in December when officers gained the right to request a breath sample from any driver they pull over. Maximum penalties for many drinking and driving offences increased across Canada with some sentences doubled from five to 10 years. Drivers should now expect to give breath samples at traffic checkpoints.

The maximum amount of alcohol that fully-licensed Canadian drivers may have legally in their blood is .08, which indicates 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. In the majority of provinces, a non-criminal penalty can be assessed for a BAC higher than .05.

All Canadian provinces have graduated driver licensing (GDL) programs. The multi-stage programs may differ from province to province, but every province has a zero-tolerance policy for drinking and driving for young drivers in their first two years of graduated license driving. Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec, and New Brunswick have a zero-tolerance policy for any driver under age 21. Young drivers in Manitoba and Nova Scotia must maintain a zero BAC level for five years after receiving their license.

Canada established strict laws for driving under the influence of alcohol to save lives. In 2008, nearly 40% of Canadian drivers who died in fatal crashes had been drinking before the collision. More than 30% of those who were killed had a BAC of .08 or above. If Canadians drink, drive, and kill another person in a crash, they could be sentenced to life in prison.

How an impaired driving infraction will affect your insurance

The insurance cost of drinking and driving in Canada could be severe, with some companies declining to cover anyone who has been convicted of any DUI offence.

Those who have been convicted of more than one DUI offence are automatically part of the high-risk car insurance category. They will be required to seek insurance through companies specializing in high-risk drivers or could be required to seek insurance through the Facility Association, which pools risk among insurers in some provinces.

What are the best options to avoid problems related to drinking and driving?

The clear choice is don't drink alcohol and drive. Even if you have had one drink several hours earlier, your blood alcohol level could be .05, resulting in a citation. With 40% of fatal auto accidents resulting from alcohol use and strict new laws, drivers shouldn't even consider taking the chance.

If you are attending a celebration, use ride-sharing services or appoint a designated driver. Some drivers are choosing to use personal breathalyzer devices to ensure they are within safe limits if they plan to consume a modest amount of alcohol at an event and drive at a later time. Learn more about drinking and driving and the risks of distracted driving on Rates.ca, and use the comparison tool to find your best options for insurance.

RATESDOTCA Team

The RATESDOTCA editorial team are experienced writers focused on sharing stories and bringing you the latest news in insurance and personal finance. Our goal is to provide Canadians with the information and resources they need to make better insurance and financial decisions.

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