The Regina Police Service is launching a new initiative during March that will require drivers to take a mandatory alcohol screening test when they are pulled over for any reason.

And they want drivers to know that under the law, drivers are required to comply with a demand for a breath test.

Impaired driving is the leading cause of fatal collisions on Saskatchewan roads, according to Saskatchewan Government Insurance.

“It is estimated that over 1,500 people are killed by impaired drivers in Canada each year,” Sgt. Shannon Gordon, who works in the Regina police traffic unit, said in a Friday news release. 

“We would like to remind drivers that mandatory roadside alcohol screening is not targeted, but an effort to decrease these numbers and provide a safer driving experience for everyone on the road.”

WATCH | What you need to know about mandatory roadside alcohol tests: 

If you get pulled over by police this month in Regina, expect to take a breathalyzer test

Everyone who gets pulled over for any reason will get a test. SGI and police are telling people about the plan because not everyone is aware of a 2018 federal law that allows it. CBC’s Darla Ponace has more on what you need to know about mandatory roadside alcohol tests.

Police can stop drivers to check for sobriety, as well as for speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, distracted driving, to do a licence check and to check that the vehicle is mechanically fit to be on the road, Gordon told reporters in Regina on Friday.

During the March initiative, police in Regina will conduct roadside alcohol screening on drivers they stop for any of those reasons.

“Drivers in other parts of the province may or may not be asked to take one of these tests at any given time,” SGI’s Friday news release said.

‘Steady erosion’ of rights: defence lawyer

But Saskatoon-based defence lawyer Ron Piché said the Regina police initiative highlights the “slow but steady erosion of any rights of motorists,” particularly after the federal government passed legislation in 2018 allowing police to demand a breath sample from anyone, regardless of whether officers have a “reasonable suspicion” of alcohol consumption.

One of his concerns with the mandatory demand is that drivers might not be aware they have no right to a lawyer at that point, and he’s already seen examples of it.

“And a lot of these people have been watching TV and they’re quite alarmed that for no reason whatsoever — i.e. they haven’t had a drink, they’ve been driving properly — that the police are making a demand and they think it’s within their rights to speak to a lawyer at that point,” he said.

“The case law’s quite clear. It is not a right they have at that point and that might result in a charge of refusal, which is a Criminal Code conviction.”

Piché said he expects the issue will end up in front of the Supreme Court of Canada.

SGI noted in its news release that penalties for refusing a roadside test can include an immediate roadside licence suspension, a minimum 30-day vehicle impoundment upon conviction, a minimum $2,000 fine, mandatory impaired driver education, a $1,250 safe driver recognition penalty, and a one-year ignition interlock requirement.

Regina police said drivers who pass the sobriety test will receive a gift card for a coffee on behalf of the police and SGI.

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