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Should drinking and driving be decriminalized?

'If people actually knew the cost and the totality of that they might be more shocked'
20171124 shawn devine ride turl
North Bay police chief Shawn Devine gets back in the trenches stopping vehicles during the Festive RIDE kickoff at Wasi Corners back in late November. Photo by Jeff Turl.

A pair of Western Canadian provinces has changed their drunk driving laws to take the criminal element out of it, and that's something that may make its way into Ontario.

North Bay Police Chief Shawn Devine says he’s not surprised to see the western provinces make the move. 

“As far as the decriminalization of it, (impaired driving) I would agree with that,” said Devine during Tuesday’s monthly Police Board meeting.  

“I think at some point that criminal charges may be necessary if he/she is charged with impaired driving and their driver's license is suspended and they continue to drive. There have to be some consequences at some point to be a deterrent. It’s not just a voluntary compliance. If you continue to do that you will wind up in jail."

Devine believes taking the criminal element out, and replacing it with fines and suspensions would likely save a lot of time and money.  

“It is not only the criminal charge and the cost that is involved in that, but it is the increase in insurance. I know the mayor is a very big advocate of not drinking and driving but if people actually knew the cost and the totality of that they might be more shocked,” said Devine.   

However, Erin Celebre, the Mothers Against Drunk Drivers Nipissing Chapter President, disagrees with the idea of decriminalizing drinking and driving.  

“When someone drives impaired they are taking the chance that they could be the reason that someone dies, and so if that is ever a consideration my opinion would be that it should be taken off the table immediately,” said Celebre.  

“Driving impaired is not okay and so the laws and the rules are in place for a reason. We need people to understand that one drink alone can have a very serious effect so sober driving is really the only option.”