Impaired Driving

Impaired driving, which means driving while your ability is affected by alcohol or drugs, is a crime under the Criminal Code of Canada. If convicted, you can lose your licence, be fined, or spend time in jail.

Drugs and Driving

Any drug that changes your mood, or the way you see and feel, will affect the way you drive. This is not only true for illegal drugs, but also for some prescription and over-the-counter drugs that may impair your driving ability. Drug impaired driving carries the same criminal charges and provincial sanctions as alcohol impaired driving.

Alcohol and Driving

Drinking and driving is a deadly combination. One drink can reduce your ability to concentrate and react to things that happen suddenly while you are driving. The more alcohol in your blood, the more difficulty you have judging distances and reacting to sudden hazards on the road. To make matters worse, your vision may be blurred.

Consequences of Impaired Driving

Consequences for impaired driving are serious and can result in a criminal offence under the Criminal Code of Canada:

  • Licence suspension
  • Vehicle impoundment
  • Monetary fines and penalties
  • Mandatory education or treatment program
  • Requirement to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle
  • Jail time
  • Criminal record

Roadside Licence Suspension

Fully-licenced drivers will face immediate roadside licence suspension for:

  • Refusing a drug or alcohol test,

  • Registering a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05 or more,

  • If a drug recognition evaluator determines impairment.

Drivers who register a blood alcohol concentration from 0.05 to 0.08 from (known as the “warn range”) lose their licence at roadside for 3, 7 or 30 days. Consequences also get tougher for repeat occurrences.

Ontario has a zero tolerance approach to both alcohol and drugs for all young and novice drivers.  This means that young drivers (21 and under) and novice drivers of any age in the Graduated Licensing System (GLS) must not have any presence of alcohol or drugs  when behind the wheel.   Drivers who violate the zero tolerance requirements face a 3 day immediate licence suspension along with other penalties.


Detection of Drug Impairment

Police officers trained and certified as Drug Recognitions Evaluators (DREs) can detect drug impaired drivers. DREs evaluate a drivers behaviour for impairment and can request a blood, urine or oral fluid sample for testing.

At roadside: driver can have their licence suspended from 3 to 30 days and a $198 penalty

After a DRE’s evaluation: driver licence suspension for 90 days, vehicle impoundment for 7 days and a $198 penalty

For more on impaired driving visit


Costs of Impaired Driving

Beyond the possibility of severe injury or death, there are other costs associated with driving impaired. Below is an example of costs to a first time convicted impaired driver:

Criminal Code Fine – $1000

Remedial Measures Program – $578

Licence Reinstatement Fee – $150

Increase in Insurance Costs – variable

Ignition Interlock – $1,350

Court Costs – $2,000 – $10,000

Driving-related Criminal Code convictions remain on a driver’s record for at least 10 years.

(Costs based on content from

Tips to remember

  • If you are planning on drinking, plan not to drive.
  • Ask your doctor about side effects if you use prescription medication or get allergy shots.
  • Read the information on the package of any over-the-counter medicine, including allergy and cold remedies.
  • Drugs and alcohol together can combine to impair your driving even more.
  • Fatigue and stress will also affect your ability to drive.

Related Lesson Plans

Grade 9 to 12: Drinking or Driving?
Grade 9 to 12: Driving while under the influence