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Drive drunk twice in Quebec, get ignition breathalyzer for life

Starting Monday, Quebec motorists convicted of drunk driving twice in 10 years will have to blow into a breathalyzer every time they start a car — for the rest of their lives.

Their licence will be branded so any intercepting police officer will know to inspect the driver’s ignition for an interlock device — a piece of equipment that prevents the car from starting if the driver’s estimated blood alcohol concentration is above the legal limit.

Andrew Murie, CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada, commended the province for the change.

“When you compare it to other provinces, nobody else has done anything like this,” Murie said. “It would be the toughest interlock legislation, not only in Canada but globally.”

The new regulation was added to the province’s Highway Safety Code when it was overhauled in 2018 and goes into effect just in time for the holidays.

No device, no drive

A driver with a restricted licence cannot use any car that does not have the device installed, said Mario Vaillancourt, spokesperson for Quebec’s automobile insurance board (SAAQ).

Getting caught without an interlock device will lead to a three-month licence suspension and a $1,500 fine, he said.

And the vehicle they’re driving will be impounded for 30 days or more, depending on the circumstances.

In addition to the other penalties that come with a second conviction, this licence restriction includes an immediate seizure of the vehicle and impoundment for 90 days, imprisonment and a licence suspension for at least two years.

Previously, interlock devices could be installed for life on a second offence if there were aggravating factors such as refusal to co-operate with police or if the motorist’s blood alcohol level was double the legal limit, Vaillancourt explained.

Third-time offenders also faced the lifetime restriction.