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How Alcohol Affects Your Ability to Drive

Drinking and driving should never go together, but sadly, people still do it. In the past few years, between 50,000 and 74,000 people have been arrested in Canada for doing exactly that. Most of them are caught after being involved in a crash or committing a traffic offence.

Accidents caused by drinking and driving can be devastating for everyone involved. Serious injuries are common. So, understandably, under Alberta law the consequences for driving while impaired because of drugs or alcohol are serious.

Alberta Law on Alcohol and Driving

Impaired driving covers an offence that involves someone having care or control of a vehicle when they are impaired by taking a substance. That could be any drug, including prescription drugs, or alcohol.

There are several categories of offence. Including the following:

Driving with blood alcohol at or above 0.08

When it comes to alcohol, there is not a blanket ban on drinking before driving. Anyone that holds a full licence can potentially do so if they wish. However, if they are given a breath test the reading must not be above 0.08.  Driving above this limit is treated as a criminal offence in all parts of Canada. Although, some areas are becoming more lenient towards first-time offenders. But not for every case. Plus, of course, it is a trend that could be reversed at any point.

Driving with blood alcohol above 0.05

In some areas, even experienced drivers need to keep their blood alcohol level (BAC) below 0.05. Failure to do so is treated as a civil offence for which the penalty is usually some sort of license suspension. At least for the first offence. This is the case in Alberta, and it applies to all drivers regardless of experience, age or where they are from.

Young or new drivers with BAC over 0

In most areas, those who are still learning, are new to driving or are aged under 21 or 22 must not drink at all before driving. They have to have a zero reading if breathe tested. That is the case for the Alberta area.

Refusing or failing to provide a breath sample

Under Canada´s, Criminal Code refusing to provide a breath sample when asked to do so is an offence. It is punishable by a licence suspension, heavy fines and mandatory alcohol and DUI counselling. Your insurance will cost a lot more and you can end up paying out thousands in reinstatement fees.

Dangerous drink driving that causes death

If you kill someone while driving under the influence, you will almost certainly go to jail. Potentially, for life. You will also lose your license and be fined.

Plus, in Alberta, drivers who are guilty of causing death while drinking and driving have to have an ignition interlock fitted to any vehicle that they drive. This type of device stops a car from being started if the driver has drunk alcohol. They are required to do this for life.

Effects of Alcohol on Driving Performance

Even drinking a small amount will impair your ability to drive. Numerous studies have proved that alcohol and drugs have an adverse effect on drivers. When people consume alcohol, they:

  • Can no longer think clearly
  • Cannot accurately judge distances and speed
  • Become incapable of being able to plan ahead enough to avoid collisions
  • Find it impossible to interpret what other road users are doing and respond appropriately
  • Become less able to read and follow road sign instructions
  • Are unable to concentrate sufficiently
  • Do not respond fast enough to what other road users are doing
  • Cannot maneuver properly to avoid hazards
  • Are more likely to stray from their lane
  • Can no longer park safely
  • Become incapable of being able to maintain a safe/consistent speed, or drive straight
  • Are not sufficiently aware of pedestrians
  • Can no longer coordinate properly
  • Are unable to change gear and brake at the right times
  • Become incapable of steering their vehicle properly
  • Suffer from slowed reaction times and reflexes
  • Have reduced peripheral vision
  • Suffer from blurred vision
  • Can no longer hear properly, so may ignore sirens and fail to move out of the way

Liability in Accidents Caused by Drunk Driving in Alberta

Should you be caught drunk driving in Alberta the consequences are severe. They go way beyond the penalties that the courts can impose.

Injured passengers, drivers and pedestrians usually sue the drunk driver. They seek compensation for their injuries, as well as damages for pain and suffering.  Not all of this is covered by accident benefits. This means that the drunk driver will have to use their own money and assets to pay a significant percentage of the bill themselves.

The injured parties can also sue the bar that served alcohol to the driver. But this can only be done under certain circumstances.

Consult with an Alberta personal injury lawyer if you get injured because of a drunk driver. Call Diamond & Diamond today.

Talk to an Alberta Car Accident Lawyer from Diamond & Diamond

Diamond & Diamond has Alberta personal injury lawyers with experience in dealing with all sorts of car accident claims, including those involving drunk drivers. We also deal with a lot of the motorcycle accidents in the Alberta area.

If you have been involved in this type of incident, please feel free to get in touch and let us help you to handle the situation the right way. You can:

Call our 1-800 number to get a free consultation

Visit any of our offices in Alberta

Or fill out the free case evaluation form that is on this website 


“Remember that in any personal injury claim, including those for drunk driving accidents, a police report is always needed.”

FAQs on How Alcohol Affects Your Ability to Drive

What damages can I recover if I get injured in a drunk driving accident?

If you get injured by a drunk driver you can sue for compensation for your injuries. Your claim will include the cost of your treatment, drugs, rehabilitation, lost income, as well as any specialist equipment or adaptations to your home. It is also possible to claim for pain and suffering and lost future income if it is appropriate to do so in your case. The cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle and certain possessions can also be recovered.

Can I sue the host of the party that served alcohol to the drunk driver who caused the accident?

The law in Canada is not clear on this matter. Bar, restaurant, and night club owners can be sued if they let one of their patrons drive home drunk. However, accident victims are increasingly suing the hosts of private parties for damages when one of their drunk guests causes an accident. But most of these cases are still working their way through the court systems. So, it remains to be seen whether the host will be sanctioned by the courts.

Are there caps on the amount of damages I can claim if I get injured in a drunk driving accident?

There are caps on the amount of damages someone who is involved in a car accident can claim. These are used for things like pain and suffering and minor injuries. Unfortunately, most of those caps also apply to accidents involving drunk drivers. However, if you are hit by a drunk driver it is sometimes also possible to claim for punitive damages, which can increase the overall payout. Your lawyer will be able to advise whether this is possible in your case.

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