No orderly society is entirely free. Any community that is subject to the rule of law must give up some of its liberty. In Canada, we're free to speak our minds, but not to yell "fire" in a crowd; we're free to write political opinions but not to promote hate; and we're free to drive cars, but only according to a set of rules, and not while intoxicated.
It was in this spirit that B.C. introduced its new drunk driving laws in September 2010. The new rules made it possible for police to issue much longer driving suspensions and hefty fines, the hope being that it would make roads safer.
It worked. In the first year, deaths related to drunk driving were cut by 40 per cent. There's little doubt the change was on the whole a good one.
Last November, however, the court ruled that the trade-off had been too great, that the improvement in safety had not been balanced by adequate oversight and appeal. It sent the rules back to the drawing board.
This week, the province tabled a new set of regulations aimed at addressing those concerns. Police now have to allow for a second chance to blow and must adhere to higher standards when submitting paperwork.
It will undoubtedly create more work for officers, but the thrust of the law -- to get drunk drivers off the road quickly and to deter them with significant fines and inconvenience -- remains intact.
Let's hope the newly tweaked rules stand up to the next legal challenge. The rules still involve a small erosion of freedom, but to the people who got home safely as a result, it is well worth the price.
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