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Sask. Plans Drunk-Driving Tests

Regina Leader Post
February 28, 1951. p.1

Special to the Star-Phoenix
REGINA

The provincial government intends to crack the whip at drunken driving by putting teeth into a proposed consolidation of the Vehicles Act.

Saskatchewan’s approximately 170,000 drivers, before getting their driver license have to promise to submit to chemical drunk tests when requested by police, under proposed amendments.

If the bill is adopted, it would be the first time in Canada such a requirement for obtaining a driver’s licence had been placed on any provincial statutes. However, it is used in some of the United States.

Provincial treasurer C. M. Fines moved second reading of the consolidated bill Wednesday. A. C. Cameron (L-Maple Creek) adjourned debate on the bill indicating it will get a full-dress scrutiny by the house.

Under section 67(G) an applicant for a driver’s licence would have to declare in writing that he will “submit to the taking of specimens of his blood, urine, saliva and breath or any of them, for chemical analysis whenever he is suspected of driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor.

If an applicant refused to make the declaration he would not be given licence by the highway traffic board.

If, after making the declaration and receiving a licence he refused to submit to the tests at the request of a policeman, he would lose his licence.

The latter provision is made under section 97(D) which says the licence could be suspended or revoked if a driver “when suspected of driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, refused to comply with the request of a traffic officer, police officer or police constable that he submit to the taking of a specimen of his blood, urine, saliva or breath, contrary to an undertaking given by him to the board when he applied for the licence.

Mr. Fines, interviewed outside the house, said most of the province’s drivers will not have to make the declaration this year when applying for licences because the forms have not been prepared yet. However, if the bill is adopted, late applicants might have to make the declaration when forms are ready.

Certainly, if it is adopted all drivers will have to make the declaration next year,” he said.

He added that results of the tests would not be proof in the courts of intoxication but would be submitted as corroborative evidence. No level of alcohol contents in the blood as prima facie proof of intoxication is mentioned in the bill.

Magistrates and judges would still make judgments on the basis of all evidence and would determine the value of the tests as evidence.

However, Mr. Fines added that the judicial association had approved of the proposed change. Chemical drunk tests, taken voluntarily, have stood up in Saskatchewan courts in the past, he said.

Mr. Fines later told the Star-Phoenix that his reference to a judicial association” did not refer to any specific group but was the opinion he had gleaned from representatives of the judiciary, lawyers and the provincial legal department.

In explaining the change in the house, Mr. Fines said that it was a principle of British justice that no man could be compelled to give evidence against himself.

“This amendment does not say that anyone will have to submit to a test,”he said. “What it says is that taking the test when requested will be a condition of obtaining and retaining a driver’s licence.

This is a very drastic measure, nevertheless when you know that 134 innocent men, women and children died on our highways last year, you must take drastic action.

Driving is not a right, it is a privilege and this provision will not be a condition of obtaining a licence.”

He said the step was taken because “undoubtedly one of the causes of the terrific highway toll is the drunken driver.

Mr. Fines disclosed that for several years an experiment with drunk tests had been quietly carried out in Saskatoon with the co-operation of volunteers, the liquor board, university professors, judiciary, RCMP and highway traffic board.

The findings were made public in December and led to the proposed amendments.

In several cases in Saskatoon, drivers charged with drunken driving offences voluntarily took the tests. Some were convicted and others acquitted.

In outlining the bill, containing 232 sections and largest brought into the house at the current session, he said it was in the main a consolidation of the vehicles act with only a few minor changes aside from the drunk test provisions.

A temporary extension of one month from expiry of licences made last year for convenience of rural drivers caught by bad road conditions in the spring, will now be a permanent fixture with the licence year ending April 30 instead of March 31 as previously.

Another change will give a family one month of grace in which to have the registration of a vehicle transferred on the death of the registered owner.

“Under the present act, if the registered owner is the father and the family drives the car home from the hospital just after he died then the car is not insured, Mr. Fines said.

Another clause would require any driver whose car is not registered in Saskatchewan to produce evidence of financial responsibility if the car had caused any bodily injury, death or property damage in excess of $200.

This is not to get even with other provinces that have the same provisions but we hope it will convince them to recognize our car insurance. At present, a Saskatchewan driver involved in an accident in Manitoba has to post a bond even though he is insured,” Mr. Fines said.

The bill would continue provisions contained in the 1953 vehicles act under which a car registration could be refused until taxes payable under the Education and Hospitalization Tax Act were paid.

Licenses or registration certificates could be suspended or revoked if the owner were convicted under the fuel petroleum products act, the education and hospitalization act, the liquor act or the criminal code.