Limits on drinking and driving in Alberta stem from both federal criminal laws and provincial laws and regulations. Some of these limits are easily understood and quantified, while others are not. One of the measurable limits is Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC), a decimal figure expressing milligrams of alcohol per decilitre of blood (0.08 equates to 80mg/dL). The Criminal Code of Canada outlines offences for operating or having care and control of a motor vehicle with a BAC over 0.08 or while impaired.
Here are four Alberta limits:
The first limit relates only to an assessment of driver impairment and is not quantified by a number. It relates to a driver’s ability to perceive of and react to what is happening around them in order to safely operate a motor vehicle. Impairment may also occur by reason of a drug, with or without any alcohol consumption. Similarly, impairment may occur at any level of alcohol consumption depending on individual factors and response to alcohol. Imagine if you are of slight build, are over-tired, have not eaten for a long time, and had two drinks before driving – impaired operation of a motor vehicle is possible.
Under the second limit, if your BAC exceeds 0.05 but not 0.08, you may be subject to an immediate 3-day licence suspension and 3-day vehicle seizure on your first offence. This is part of the province’s stricter approach against driving while under the influence. A criminal record does not result from this offence.
The third limit (driving over 0.08), is the often-charged “drunk driving” charge. There is a presumption at law that your ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired when your blood alcohol level exceeds 0.08. The Court does NOT have to find that you appeared drunk or impaired to convict you of driving with a blood alcohol limit over 0.08 – many people appear completely sober and would pass a field sobriety test, but because their BAC exceeded 0.08 they were convicted of this criminal offence.
The fourth limit relates to new drivers under the Graduated Driver’s Licensing program and is part of a public policy encouraging formation of responsible driving habits. It also recognizes how new drivers require more concentration to drive safely. It expresses clearly a zero-tolerance for drinking and driving. There is no criminal offence associated with this limit, but on a first offence there is an immediate 30-day licence suspension, a 7-day vehicle seizure, and a lengthening of time before full licensing can be achieved.
Blood alcohol levels are affected by gender, body build, metabolism, the pattern and amount of alcohol consumption over time, food intake, underlying disease, other medications and drugs, and activity level. The Alberta Government provides a tool online that helps you estimate a BAC using a selection of relevant factors; it’s located at http://aglc.ca/responsibleliquorservice/bac.asp . Use of the tool can give you a sense of how some factors associated with alcohol consumption essentially create individualized limits on drinking and driving. It personalizes the old phrase “know your limits.”