What You Should Know About Impaired Driving in Alberta

Impaired driving kills 4 Canadians daily on average. Earlier, the old rules pertaining to impaired driving in Alberta charged the offender with criminal charges. However, the court proceedings were tedious and took months or even years to complete. Thus, to make things simpler, Alberta revised their impaired driving laws which now charge the offenders on administrative grounds without having to visit the courts. However, just because the nature of penalties has changed, it does not mean the laws are any less strict.

Impaired Driving in Alberta

If you are a new driver in Alberta, here is everything you need to know about impaired driving as well as the penalties associated with it.

Before moving on to impaired driving, make sure you also buy a comprehensive insurance plan for your car for reputed companies like Surex. After all, auto Insurance is also legally mandatory in Alberta, and breaching the laws will have severe legal consequences.

What Is Impaired Driving?

Impaired driving is when a driver’s ability to drive properly is altered by the consumption of intoxicating substances like drugs and alcohol. Impaired driving is not only limited to cars and roads alone. Drivers of any vehicle, including ships and aircraft, come under the jurisdiction of impaired driving.

Things To Know About Impaired Driving In Canada

Before we proceed to talk about the penalties and charges, here are a few things that we need to know about impaired driving.

You Can Be Charged With Criminal Offence For Impaired Driving

Alberta has indeed done away with its law that categorized impaired driving as a criminal offense and charged accordingly. After the laws associated with impaired driving were revised, it was treated as a civil offense and resulted in administrative charges. However, in certain cases, you can still be charged on criminal grounds. This generally applies to cases of criminal level impaired driving.

For example, suppose someone was killed or badly injured in an accident you were responsible for, and the authorities later find out that you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In that case, you will be charged on criminal grounds. The exact penalty will vary from case to case. Depending on the severity, you might also have to serve time in prison.

Impaired Driving Doesn’t Just Mean Alcohol Influence

A lot of people often mistake impaired driving for driving under the influence of alcohol. Although both of them cater to the same territory, there is a fine line of difference between them. Driving under the influence only suggests alcohol intoxication.

Whereas impaired driving includes alcohol, drugs, as well as cannabis. Cannabis and all its products are legal in Canada. However, if you drive just after consuming it, you will have to face legal consequences.

You Can Be Charged With Impaired Driving If You Refuse To Take The Drug Test

Even if you claim that you are not under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or weed, you can still be charged for impaired driving if you refuse to let the authorities test you. Canadian citizens do not have the right to refuse drug tests for whatever reason. It gives the authorities the right to believe that you have breached the laws. In a situation like this, your case would be treated as a case of impaired driving without any alteration in the penalties.

What Counts As Impaired Driving?

Now that you know how strict Alberta is with its impaired driving laws, you might want to know what cases would qualify as impaired driving.

For Adult Licensed Drivers

If you are an adult and a licensed driver in Alberta, the concentration of alcohol or any intoxicating drug should be no more than 80 mg per 100 mg of your blood. This means that your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level should not exceed 0.08

You can expect to face severe consequences if your BAC reaches 0.08 or more. In fact, in Ontario, if your blood alcohol concentration is between 0.05 to 0.08, you would be asked to pull over. Depending on the exact concentration level, you might face charges. That’s why this range is known as the “warn range” in Ontario.

For Minors And New Drivers

The laws are a little different for young and amateur drivers. The Canadian laws have zero-tolerance against alcohol and other intoxicating substances in the blood of amateur drivers. If you are under the age of 21 or a new driver, you need to be absolutely clean. Otherwise, you can expect to face charges for impaired driving.

Commercial Drivers

Just like minor and amateur drivers, the Canadian laws also have a zero-tolerance policy against alcohol or drug consumption for commercial drivers. Since a commercial driver also has the responsibility of other passengers, the laws are stringent for them.

What Happens If You Use Medical Cannabis?

Some people use cannabis-based products strictly for medical purposes. In this case, if you have a legit prescription from a licensed doctor, you will be exempted. However, even if you have consumed cannabis for medical purposes, you can still be charged for impaired driving if it affects your ability to drive.

What Is The Penalty For Impaired Driving In Alberta?

According to the revised impaired driving laws in Alberta

  • For your first offense, your driving license will be suspended for 90 days, your vehicle will be seized for 30 days, and you will have to pay a fine of $1000.
  • For a second offense, you will have to participate in Interlock Program for three years and pay a higher fine
  • For your 3rd offense, you will need to participate in ignition interlock for a lifetime.


Impaired driving laws in Alberta are pretty strict, and it’s certainly not worth losing your freedom, vehicle, and paying hefty fines just to fancy alcohol and drugs. It’s also important to note that impaired driving does not just invite legal consequences but also risks your life.

However, much to the relief of all drivers, abiding by these rules is pretty straightforward. All that you need to do is avoid getting high or drunk before you hit the road.

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