How New Impaired Driving Rules in New Brunswick Affect Your Insurance

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Article Contents
Picture of By <span>Aren Mirzaian</span>
By Aren Mirzaian

Updated on July 8, 2024

Visit author page
Picture of By <span>Aren Mirzaian</span>
By Aren Mirzaian

Updated July 8, 2024

Visit author page

5 minute read

Article Contents

In May of this year, the province of New Brunswick introduced amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act to crack down on impaired driving cases and reduce court backlogs. Given the increase in the impaired driving rate in 2019 by 53% in the province compared to the previous year, these new measures are seen as a swift way to prevent alcohol-related motor fatalities.

What are these changes and how do the new penalties compare to those in other provinces? Learn more about these key changes, how they will affect roadside safety, and what their effect will be on your auto insurance premiums.

The New Impaired Driving Penalties at a Glance

New Brunswick’s amendments to its impaired driving penalties mean fewer court delays and enhanced road safety. Here’s a basic summary of what changes have been made and what they mean for New Brunswick drivers:

Immediate Roadside Suspension and Other Administrative Penalties

New Brunswick police now have the authority to suspend impaired drivers for 15 months immediately. Roadside suspension will also result in a 30-day vehicle impoundment, mandatory participation in an approved education program, a $1,000 administrative penalty, and a $230 licence reinstatement fee.

After completing these requirements, a driver is required to participate in an ignition interlock program for 12 months. Penalties increase in duration and fine amount with each subsequent offence.

Lower BAC offences

New Brunswick drivers with a BAC between 0.05% and 0.08% (known as the WARN range) now have mandatory short-term license suspensions, starting with a 7-day suspension, 3-day vehicle impoundment, and a $200 penalty for the first offence. Subsequent offences will incrementally increase the suspension and impoundment periods and fine amount.

Police Discretion to Choose Between Criminal Charges and Administrative Penalties

The New Brunswick police can decide if impaired drivers should be given the administrative penalties listed above or criminally charged for impaired driving offences unrelated to minors, serious injury, or death. This gives the police discretion to decide and keep a dangerous driver off the road immediately instead of waiting for a court hearing.

Reduced Court Backlog

Cases involving impaired driving are estimated to take up 28% of court time in New Brunswick. The new penalties are estimated to free up the court system by cutting case numbers in half. However, public safety won’t be compromised as impaired driving can be penalized immediately.

Impact on Auto Insurance Premiums

Impaired driving convictions have always increased auto insurance premiums, but the stricter laws in New Brunswick mean that impaired driving incidents involving lower BAC will be taken more seriously. Before the amendments, New Brunswick only imposed a 7-day suspension for drivers with a BAC in the WARN range, and this would not be noted on their driving record.

The amendments now impose a mandatory short-term licence suspension and vehicle impoundment for these offences. This will keep offenders off the road immediately instead of allowing them on the road after just a week.  Lower BAC offences will also have stricter administrative penalties that go on a New Brunswick driver’s abstract, so when auto insurers check a record with these offences, they will likely increase the premiums they offer to that driver.

Even if an offence only stays three years on a driving record, insurance companies can go back as early as 10 years to assess the risk of insuring a driver. These incidents are immediate red flags for auto insurance companies that will result in higher quotes compared to drivers with no record of impaired driving.

Role of Insurance Companies

Impaired driving has serious consequences for drivers in New Brunswick, not just for public safety but for insurance companies that provide auto insurance coverage. Here’s a summary of the role auto insurers will play with the new penalties:

Higher Premiums

Impaired driving convictions, whether they’re criminal or administrative, will go on a driver’s record. The more offences there are on a record, the more likely a driver is deemed high-risk by an insurer which results in increases to a driver’s auto insurance premiums.

High-Risk Auto Insurance Coverage

If a record has multiple impaired driving offences, car insurers may reject an application outright. Because there are harsher administrative penalties that can be recorded even when a driver isn’t convicted, they may still be considered high-risk and denied coverage by most auto insurance providers in New Brunswick.

High-risk drivers who can’t get traditional car insurance will have to pay out of pocket or look for specialized providers to get auto insurance policies. Premiums from these providers can be as high as thrice the usual rates for standard auto insurance.

Denial of Existing Coverage

Auto insurance companies can deny collision coverage to New Brunswick drivers who are convicted of impaired driving offences. This means even if a driver has existing coverage, they will have to pay out-of-pocket for damages and other related expenses.

Public Safety and Insurance Implications

The new penalties for impaired driving in New Brunswick may reduce the number of impaired driving incidents on the road. Here’s how that affects public safety and insurance:

Dangerous Drivers Will Be Kept Off The Road

The stricter administrative penalties mean that a driver with a lower BAC who is involved in a vehicular incident can be suspended immediately, even if the incident doesn’t result in serious injury or death. For those with a BAC of 0.08% or higher, the penalty is automatically a longer licence suspension and vehicle impoundment. This deters people from getting behind the wheel if they’ve been drinking, and it takes them off the road if they’re caught drunk driving.

Reduction in Impaired Driving-Related Fatalities and Injuries

Provinces that have penalties similar to the amendments in New Brunswick saw reductions in alcohol-related injuries and fatalities. British Columbia and Alberta are two provinces that implemented immediate roadside suspension penalties for drivers with BAC over 0.05%.

After BC introduced these measures in 2010, there was a consistent downward trend in impaired driving rates from 2011 to 2018. Alberta’s impaired driving penalties were likewise revamped in 2020 and modelled after the BC framework.

With similarly stricter amendments, New Brunswick’s penalties will remove impaired drivers from the road faster than its old system, and will likely reduce fatality and injury rates. With safer roads and more stringent rules for drivers, auto insurance rates may become more affordable in the province, especially for drivers with clean records.

Focus On Alcohol-Related Impairment

While other provinces have introduced measures that focus on both drug and alcohol-related impaired driving, there has been concern amongst New Brunswick authorities that the new penalties address only alcohol impairment. Some have expressed issues that the law still needs to be revised to cover drug impairment adequately.

Comparative Analysis with Other Provinces

The revamped penalties for impaired driving in New Brunswick share similarities to those in other provinces like Alberta and British Columbia, but key differences with others. Here’s a basic analysis of how New Brunswick’s amendments compare to other provinces:

Alberta and British Columbia’s impaired driving penalties are similar to the amended ones in New Brunswick. In Albert, officers can issue an immediate 90-day licence suspension and an additional one-year driving suspension for the first offence. Administrative penalties increase in duration and fine amount with each subsequent offence.

Meanwhile in British Columbia, if you drive with a BAC higher than 0.05% but lower than 0.08%, the first offence is penalized with:

  • An immediate licence seizure for three days
  • $200 administrative penalty
  • Three-day vehicle impoundment
  • Application for licence reinstatement

Newfoundland and Labrador have strict penalties for impaired driving. If a driver is under 22 years of age, they get an immediate seven-day vehicle impoundment as long as their BAC is higher than 0.

Offending drivers can get a 24-hour license suspension for a BAC between 0.05% and 0.08% for a first offence, with longer suspension periods for subsequent offences. All drivers convicted of impaired driving are also required to participate in an ignition interlock program.

Ontario imposes a three-day license suspension and a $250 penalty on:

  • New drivers violating zero-tolerance for BAC levels
  • Drivers who fail a field sobriety test or test in the WARN range (first offence)

Subsequent offences have increased suspension periods and fine amounts, as well as vehicle impoundment and mandatory treatment and education programs.

Drivers who refuse a test or have a BAC over 0.08% will get the following penalties:

  • 90-day suspension
  • Seven-day vehicle impoundment
  • $550 penalty
  • $281 license reinstatement fee
  • Mandatory treatment program
  • Mandatory ignition interlock device for at least six months

Key Advice from MyChoice

  • Impaired driving has always been a no-no, but with the new penalties for lower BAC, New Brunswick drivers should take even greater care to avoid consuming any amount of alcohol before getting behind the wheel.
  • If you accumulate multiple offences on your record because of the new penalties, you may have difficulty finding auto insurance coverage. Even if no one is injured, just one driving conviction can stay on your record for years and raise your premiums dramatically.
  • In case you’re deemed a high-risk driver who’s been rejected by traditional car insurers, consider getting coverage from specialized companies and work on maintaining a clean driving record in the future.
  • If you get an impaired driving penalty, disclose it to your auto insurer. Concealing it may result in cancellation and non-renewal of your car insurance policy.

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