The strictest impaired driving penalties in Canada went into effect on Sept. 20, with automatic penalties for drivers with a blood alcohol content over .08 per cent, and new penalties for "tipsy" drivers over 0.05 per cent.
The financial cost of impaired driving are much higher than in the past when fines, towing, impounding, re-education and other costs are factored in.
For example, a first time offender who fails a roadside screening device faces a total bill of roughly $3,750 when everything is added up, which doesn't include any costs related to transportation or lost income. A driver who is tested in the warn range between 0.05 and 0.08 can face costs around $600 for a first offence, with the fines and fees increasing for every subsequent offence.
For drivers who are concerned about getting towed or ticketed for leaving their car overnight, or simply have to get their cars home for the following day, there are options.
For example, Whistler Resort Cabs will take you home and assign a second driver to take your vehicle. The cost is the same as a triple fare - one fare for you, one for the second cab and one to get the second driver back to his taxi.
However, while that service is available, manager Gary Parhar says it hasn't been used since the new laws were introduced.
"I haven't seen any impact at all from that right now, either calls from people wanting us to drive their vehicle home, or an increase in people taking cabs at night as a direct result of this law," he said.
People also have the opportunity to call a local tow company to bring them and their vehicles home.
Right now it's rare, according to Whistler Towing manager Steve Gilmer, but he'd like to see more people take advantage of that option.
"We're more than willing to tow people home if they've been drinking, it's part of the service we provide," he said.
"For example, in the Marketplace some people don't know that if they park after 3 a.m. they'll get towed out of there, and we hear the next that they were trying to do the responsible thing and not drink and drive. We always tell them that we could have towed them and their vehicles home cheaper than the impound.
"We're open to be doing more of that, and we actually want to do more of that."
Since Sept. 20, Gilmer says they've collected four cars from impaired drivers that are being impounded at the owners' expense for 30 days, including two vehicles from the first day after the laws changed.
"So far it's not that bad since the new laws went into effect," said Gilmer.
Whistler Towing currently charges a flat rate for a tow of $50, plus $2.50 per kilometre.
At Payless Towing, they haven't seen many impaired calls from North Vancouver to Whistler, but have picked up and impounded several vehicles for seven days under the province's tough laws against excessive speeding. Overall, president Gordon Carmichael estimates that they are getting three or four more calls for impounding in North Vancouver, and two to three calls a day in Sea to Sky.
As for taking people and their vehicles home, he says his company has always provided that service. It does get used, but he hasn't noticed a change since the new laws came into effect.
"Most people will get a cab home at night and take a cab back in the morning because that's the cheapest way to do it, but that's not always an option for people," he said.
His company charges $45 for a tow, plus $2.50 per kilometre.
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