Learn about Ontario’s impaired driving laws and the penalties you could face if you drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs.
What is impaired driving?
Impaired driving means operating a vehicle (including cars, trucks, boats, snowmobiles and off-road vehicles) while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
It is a crime under the Criminal Code of Canada and the consequences are serious. You may:
- lose your licence
- have your vehicle impounded
- need to pay an administrative monetary penalty
- need to attend an education or treatment program
- be fined upon conviction
- be required to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle
- spend time in jail
Ontario is a leader in combating impaired driving through some of the toughest laws and programs in North America.
Drinking and driving
Even one drink can reduce your ability to react to things that happen suddenly while you are driving. The effects of alcohol include blurred or double vision, impaired attention and slowed reflexes. Your life and the lives of others can change forever if you drive after drinking alcohol.
Blood alcohol concentration (BAC)
The amount of alcohol in your body is measured by the amount of the alcohol in your blood. This is called blood alcohol concentration, or BAC. Once you take a drink, there is no way to guess what your BAC is.
Many factors can affect your blood alcohol level including:
- how fast you drink
- whether you are male or female
- your body weight
- the amount of food in your stomach
In Ontario and the rest of Canada, the maximum legal BAC for fully licensed drivers is 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood (0.08). Driving with BAC over 0.08 is a criminal offence.
In Ontario, your BAC does not have to be over the 0.08 legal limit to result in serious consequences. If you register a BAC from 0.05 to 0.08 (commonly referred to as the warn range), you will face provincial administrative penalties.
Drug impaired driving
Drugs can also impair your ability to drive. This is true for both illegal drugs and prescription or over-the-counter medication.
Tips to avoid impaired driving
There are simple steps you can take to avoid driving while you’re impaired by drugs or alcohol:
- make sure you have a plan to get home safely
- ask your doctor or pharmacist about side effects related to driving when using prescription medication
- read the information on the package of any prescription drugs or over-the-counter medicine, including allergy and cold remedies
- ask your doctor or pharmacist about how a prescription drug could affect you- drugs and alcohol together can impair your driving even more than either one alone
Remember, fatigue and stress will also affect your ability to drive safely.
Consequences of impaired driving
The Zero BAC law means that certain drivers cannot have any presence of alcohol in their blood while they drive. This law applies to:
- all drivers age 21 or under
- novice drivers of any age
If you are caught with a BAC above zero, here is what will happen:
- your driver’s licence will be suspended on the spot for 24 hours
- if convicted, your driver’s licence will be suspended again for at least 30 days and you will receive a $60-$500 fine
If you are a novice driver and have your licence suspended for drinking and driving, your licence could be cancelled. You will have to retake all your driving tests and repay all the fees.
If your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) tests in the Warn Range (0.05 – 0.08):
|Consequences for driving in the Warn Range.|
|Number of instances||Consequences|
|Second time (within 5 years)||
|Third and subsequent times (within 5 years)||
If you test over the legal limit of 0.08 OR refuse a drug or alcohol test:
- 90-day roadside licence suspension
- $180 administrative monetary penalty
- 7 day vehicle impoundment
If you are convicted of impaired driving:
|Penalties for impaired driving convictions.|
|Number of instances||Penalties|
|Third and subsequent times||
*The Reduced Suspension with Ignition Interlock Conduct Review Program will eligible drivers convicted for the first time of an alcohol impaired driving offence under the Criminal Code to reduce their licence suspension in return for meeting specific requirements, such as the mandatory installation of an approved ignition interlock device in their vehicle.
Alcohol education and treatment programs
You may need to participate in an alcohol education or treatment program if you have:
- been convicted of an impaired driving-related offence
- received more than one roadside licence suspension for driving with a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08
You will receive information from the Ministry of Transportation, including the specific remedial measures requirements and how to complete them.
The program in Ontario is called Back on Track. It is delivered by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
To register for Back on Track, please:
- call 1-888-814-5831 or 416-595-6593
- visit the Back on Track website – http://www.remedial.net/about.html
The costs to cover the program are as follows:
- $578 (assessment, education/treatment and follow up) for convicted impaired drivers
- $178 (education or treatment) for drivers who receive more than one warn range roadside suspension within a five year period
There are three components to the Back on Track program: an assessment, an education or treatment program, and a follow-up interview. For more details, visit the Back on Track website.
If you a provide breath sample which registers a BAC from 0.05 to 0.08 (the warn range) more than three times, you will need to undergo a mandatory medical evaluation. You will be sent a Substance Abuse Assessment form to be completed by your family doctor or a doctor who specializes in addiction medicine. This assessment will determine whether you are alcohol dependent and whether further intervention is needed.
Depending on the information your doctor provides, the ministry may keep your licence suspended until you fulfill the medical requirements for licensing.
There are different requirements for people convicted of impaired driving and those who are suspended for repeatedly driving in the warn range.
If you have been convicted of impaired driving, you should register for an education or treatment program immediately, as the program can take up to 11 months to complete.
You will need to complete all three components of the Back on Track program before your licence suspension expires. You will also need to satisfy all other requirements set by the courts to have your licence reinstated.
If you are eligible for the Reduced Suspension with Ignition Interlock Conduct Review Program, you need to complete the assessment component of the Back on Track program before your licence is reinstated.
Warn range suspension
If you are fulfilling the Back on Track program because of a warn range suspension, you have 120 days from the start of your suspension to complete the education course and 180 days to complete the treatment course.
PENALTIES FOR IMPAIRED BOATING
Boaters caught drinking and boating in Ontario face consequences similar to those for drinking and driving:
- Immediate 3, 7 or 30 day driver’s licence suspension if caught with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in the “warn” range of 0.05 to 0.08. Drivers caught in the “warn” range more than once will face a mandatory alcohol education program and could be subject to treatment programs and ignition interlock.
- Immediate 90-day administrative driver’s licence suspension and a $180 administrative fine for boaters exceeding a 0.08 BAC or whofail or refuse to provide a breath or blood sample.
- If convicted under the Criminal Code, the boater will also face:
- Driver’s licence suspension, from one year up to a lifetime ban
- Mandatory alcohol assessment, education or treatment, and follow-up
- Ignition interlock condition on their driver’s licence for one year to up to a lifetime
- Vehicle impoundment if caught driving a motor vehicle while under suspension
These sanctions apply to anyone who is caught drinking and operating motorized and non-motorized vessels, including power boats, canoes, kayaks, personal watercraft, sailboats, dinghies and other inflatable boats and rafts.