We’ve all been in the awkward situation when someone we know grabs their keys to drive home even though it’s obvious they are impaired, whether it be by alcohol, or cannabis, or both. It’s hard to know what to do, because nobody wants to get into a confrontation or even end up losing a friend. But, as the consequences for impaired driving are severe, and nobody wants to see their friends involved in an accident that hurts them or someone else, you are actually doing your friend a favour by attempting to stop them from getting behind the wheel. Be strong, and follow these few handy tips as to how to stop an impaired driver as provided by MADD Canada.
- Be as non-confrontational as possible. As alcohol and cannabis cloud judgement, approaching someone aggressively is unlikely to earn you the results you want.
- Tactfully suggest another way of getting home, and be prepared for excuses such as “I can’t afford a cab or Uber.” Offering to share the cost or even to pay for it yourself can help someone with making the right choice.
- Explain that you are in no way judging their behaviour, you are simply concerned about theirs and others’ well-being. Explain the risks (license suspension, major fines, a huge hike in car insurance rates), and bring the conversation to a personal level if you can. Try to pose a scenario that will cause them to pause and think, such as, “Another friend in your field recently received an impaired and they lost their job because they can’t drive,” or, “My sibling received an impaired and it has caused a lot of problems because they can’t take their kids to school or activities anymore.”
- If they are concerned about leaving their vehicle behind, offer an alternative, such as staying at your place and/or you picking them up in the morning to take them back to their car.
- Don’t gang up, but it does help to have at least one other person there to help make your case with you.
- Warn them that if they do drive off you will report them to police, and then do so. They will help advise on the next best steps to follow. If you can, make note of the driver’s address and telephone number.
If you are the host, you could be liable for alcohol impairment
In Alberta, if you host a gathering in your home and serve liquor to someone who is then involved in a traffic accident that causes damage to property or another vehicle, or that ends up injuring someone, you could actually be found responsible (or liable) and be sued. Alberta has what is called Occupiers Liability legislation, which states that people who own or have possession of a property, including renters, are responsible for preventing accidents and protecting others. Hosts must make sure that their property is safe to visit, including its physical condition, and are accountable for the trustworthiness of the people who are invited and the type of activities involved.
If alcohol is served at your home and someone chooses to drive impaired, you could be found responsible for any accidents. Depending on the size of your gathering and who will be attending, you may want to speak to an insurance broker about event liquor liability insurance.
Other ways you could be found legally liable for accidents pertaining to alcohol or drugs on your property are:
- If someone slips and falls or is injured in another way due to a preventable accident and because of alcohol consumption
- You continue to serve alcohol to an already intoxicated person
- An underage person is served alcohol on your property
Here are a few ways to keep your party under control, with safety and responsibility top of mind for everyone.
- Determine who are the designated drivers in the crowd and ensure there are plenty of non-alcoholic options available for them.
- Serve people personally so that you are aware of how much alcohol is being consumed.
- Provide plenty of food to help metabolize alcohol.
- Stop serving alcohol and start serving coffee, tea, or water well before people are set to leave.
- Do not partake in dangerous activities, such as swimming.
Consequences for impaired driving
Everyone should familiarize themselves with Alberta’s impaired driving laws and the consequences. Penalties vary based on the level of impairment and previous convictions, but the very least you will face a suspension, having your vehicle seized, a fine, and, more than likely, increased car insurance costs. Be aware that police have the right to pull you over at any time, regardless of whether you have exhibited poor driving behaviour. You may think you know your limit, but the truth is that driving under the influence of any substance is illegal, dangerous, and shouldn’t be done.
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