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Traffic Inj Prev. 2011 Apr;12(2):111-9. doi: 10.1080/15389588.2010.533315.

Random breath testing: a Canadian perspective.

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Faculty of Law, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.



The purpose of this article is to examine the case for and challenges to implementing random breath testing (RBT) in Canada, with a particular focus on the persistence of impaired driving under the current method of law enforcement. It seeks to place RBT within Canada's existing legal and social framework.


This article reviews Canada's impaired driving record, charge and conviction rates, and law enforcement challenges. It then summarizes the impact that RBT programs have had in comparable countries. Finally, it examines whether the enactment of RBT would be upheld under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


Canada has made little progress in reducing impaired driving since the late 1990s. Current enforcement methods fail to detect the majority of impaired drivers, even when stopped at sobriety checkpoints. This has reduced the perceived risk of apprehension and helps to explain the persistence of impaired driving in Canada. Faced with similar challenges, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and most EU countries have introduced comprehensive RBT programs. Comprehensive RBT has been shown to significantly reduce impaired driving deaths and injuries. Proposals to enact RBT in Canada will inevitably generate claims that it violates drivers' Charter rights. Similar arguments have been raised in opposition to RBT in other countries. This article demonstrates that RBT is compatible with the existing Charter case law involving traffic legislation and border, airline, and courtroom security.


Experience in other countries indicates that RBT is a minimally intrusive, cost-effective, and publicly accepted impaired driving countermeasure and that it would significantly improve the detection and deterrence of impaired drivers. Moreover, RBT is compatible with the Charter.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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