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Licence suspension over single beer a warning to other Alberta GDL drivers

In July, Marlon Durrie and his girlfriend decided to end a long day of mountain biking at Mouse Mountain with a celebratory beer.

That beer, just the one, would end up costing Durrie his licence for 30 days, and his pickup truck for seven. Durrie, who is 24, holds a Graduated Drivers Licence.

One of the conditions for all GDL drivers in Alberta is zero alcohol.

“I went for a few laps up and down the mountain, riding up, riding back down, and then I had one 355 mil can of beer—just one small one,” said Durrie.

“I drove and I didn’t really think anything of it.”

Durrie was picked up in a check stop held by the RCMP in Bragg Creek. During that stop he blew a 0.014 per cent BAC, well below the province’s 0.05 per cent limit.

He said the RCMP officer was about to let him continue on to Calgary until the officer noticed that Durrie had a GDL licence, instead of a full provincial Class 5 one.

“That’s when I went, ‘oh, am I in trouble for this?’ And he said yeah, you could be.”

What Durrie thought would be a slap on the wrist turned into a situation where he would no longer be able to pursue his passion for mountain biking during the peak summer season.

“My biggest passion in life is riding bikes, and I gotta drive to ride. It really has taken a toll on me in the past month, I feel like I’m missing a huge piece of the year,” he said.

Durrie’s message to other GDL holders in the province is that “it’s just not worth it.”

“I think a lot of them need to be more familiar with the punishment,” he said.

“There is a lot of people like me. I wasn’t aware that it would be this bad.”

Calgary Police have ticketed hundreds in 2022

The Calgary Police Service said that under the province’s Immediate Roadside Sanction ZERO: Novice program, they have issued 148 sanctions up to the end of July.

Police said that in the same period they’ve seized 116 vehicles, although in some specific circumstances they will not seize the vehicle.

“In some cases when the driver is not the owner of the vehicle, and seizing it will cause hardship on the registered registered owner, they won’t use it,” said the service.

The example that CPS used was when a young driver using a family’s sole vehicle received an IRS sanction. Another example provided by police was when a vehicle was stolen.

Province changed rules around roadside suspensions in 2020

In June of 2020, then Minister for Justice, Doug Schweitzer, announced the changes to roadside penalties for drinking and driving.

The UCP government introduced Bill 21, which introduced stiffer zero-tolerance penalties.

“The act is expected to reduce impaired driving fatalities and injuries, which is at the heart of why we’re making these changes,” said Minister Schweitzer.

“This policy saves lives full stop.”

Minister Schweitzer said that the bill was modelled after a similarly successful model for interventions in B.C. That province saw a 36 per cent decrease in the number of impaired driving incidents from 2011 to 2018.

He also said that this system would free up courtroom time, and make appeals processes easier for those accused.

Durrie said that there is an element of “you do the crime you do the time,” but also unfairness in the system.

He said that while he was being processed for a small amount of alcohol in his system by officers, others he had observed drinking far heavier during the day at the Moose Mountain parking lot were able to drive past the CheckStop.

“I do think that they really did miss out on people that were actually drunk behind the wheel just leaving McLean Creek, and leaving campsites and stuff like that.”

“Not only am I upset about the money that has cost me, the summer that it has cost me, but I really think that it was a waste of their time, and that there was probably someone out there that should have gotten caught.”