Impaired Driving and the Law in Ontario

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Impaired Driving and the Law in Ontario

Impaired Driving and the Law

In 2016, the CDC reported that in Canada, 34% of motor vehicle fatalities involved alcohol — the highest rate of drunk driving deaths in the world.
Despite years of advocacy by groups such as MADD, and work by both public health and law enforcement, impaired driving remains a big problem in our country.
In recent years, some high-profile cases have brought attention not only to the devastation that impaired driving can cause, but also to the lenient treatment of offenders.

Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?


In 2015, Marco Muzzo, a member of one of Canada’s richest families, got off a private jet after having been at a bachelor party weekend in Miami. Muzzo drank heavily during the weekend and continued to down Caesars on the plane, yet he chose to drive himself home from the airport. His Jeep Cherokee ran an intersection and T-boned a minivan carrying three children and their grandfather. It is believed Muzzo may have been driving at least twice the speed limit, and officers at the scene noted that he smelled of alcohol, was unsteady and glassy-eyed, and had urinated on himself. His blood alcohol level was 0.20, well above the 0.08 limit. Grandfather Gary Neville and grandchildren Daniel Neville-Lake (9), Harrison Neville-Lake (5), and Milly Neville-Lake (2) were killed; the children’s grandmother and great-grandmother were seriously injured. In February of this year, Muzzo was granted full parole, after having been granted day parole in 2020.


 One Sunday morning in 2016, Catherine McKay sped through a stop sign at the intersection of Highway 11 and Wanuskewin Drive on the outskirts of Saskatoon. She had more than three times the legal limit of alcohol in her bloodstream. Her SUV crashed into the vehicle carrying the Van de Vorst family, parents Jordan and Chanda, five-year-old Kamryn, and two-year-old Miguire. Jordan and Chanda died at the scene; the children died after being taken to hospital. Although McKay was initially sentenced to ten years, she was transferred almost immediately to a minimum-security healing lodge, and, by early in 2020, was out on day parole.


During the five years between 2005 and 2010, Alberta driver Chad Olsen got nine speeding tickets, as well as tickets for failing to stop, failing to obey traffic control, crossing a double solid line, driving left of centre, driving while unauthorized, and an alcohol-related suspension. In February of 2010, his truck slammed into Brad and Krista Howe’s vehicle at a Red Deer intersection. The couple, who died at the scene, were parents to five children aged six through fifteen. Olsen was driving faster than the posted speed limit and tested at three times the legal blood alcohol level. He received a two-year sentence and was granted day parole after seven months.


Deterring Drunk Drivers


Although many of us would like to see stricter penalties for drunk drivers, Robert Solomon, director of legal policy for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), doesn’t think that penalties are the answer to the problem. Solomon pinpoints two areas where Canada could invest in order to see a reduction in drunk driving rates: more frequent check-stops with testing, and a lowering of the legal blood alcohol limit. In most jurisdictions, police can test any driver for sobriety, but in Canada, police must have a reasonable suspicion that the driver has been drinking. Solomon notes that in countries where random breath tests are allowed, drunk driving rates have been seen to fall by as much as 25%. In Australia, police often put check-stops on the busiest roads at peak times of day; people get accustomed to the idea that they can be stopped anywhere at any time. In addition, Solomon says, Canada could lower the percentage of blood alcohol drivers are allowed to have, from .08 to .05, which would bring us in line with other developed countries. Germans, for example, drink 33% more alcohol per capita than Canadians do, but Canada’s alcohol-related collision deaths are almost five times as high as Germany’s.


Despite the fact that most drunk drivers do not serve significant prison time, they also can be held responsible for their actions in civil court. If a member of your family member has been killed or injured by a drunk driver, contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Although no amount of money can compensate for what you have suffered, a lawyer can work with you to explore your options regarding insurance claims and legal action, which can happen even before a criminal case goes to trial. Almost all personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means that you will not be charged hourly fees but will deliver a percentage of any compensation you receive to your lawyer. The initial meeting with one of our Sokoloff Lawyers is free, giving you the opportunity to obtain some advice about your case before committing to work with us.


Contact Sokoloff Lawyers at or 1-844-966-HURT today to learn more.