The problem with more breathalyzer tests

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author: maria aman | contributor 

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Impaired driving is a huge issue in Saskatchewan, especially when I think of young people in the province. The new legislation about being able to do a breathalyzer test at any time. However, is not the best decision. 

Yes, breathalyzer tests are a way to detect impaired drivers, but why is the province not focusing on preventative measures first? The money the province puts into implementing this program could be better used with an affordable transportation strategy. 

People don’t want to drink and drive and make other poor decisions on the road. But in my past experiences, and what I have seen from other young people that are like me, it’s often financial situations and convenience that comes into play when planning a ride home. There isn’t really an affordable or convenient option for partygoers in Saskatchewan.  

There is no Uber, no car shares, and no extended bus service for night attractions downtown. This is a huge obstacle for young people, especially those already stretched for cash by rising tuition and living costs. People deserve to have leisure in their life and have it be safe and affordable, and not everyone has family and friends available at the drop of a hat to make sure they get home safe. We need to consider those people who are in those situations, because they are the ones who are often stuck with unaffordable cab rides home, or the dangerous risk of taking their own transportation that may not be a responsible choice. 

The other concern I have about this legislation is the already highly criticized criminal justice system in our province. Statistics show that significant proportions of Canada’s racial minority populations perceive bias in the criminal justice system, especially on the part of police. Abuse of power and privilege is real, and Aboriginal and black Canadians are grossly overrepresented in Canada’s correctional institutions. For example, the 2011 census showed that Canada’s black population made up 2.5 per cent of the population but accounted for 8.4 per cent of the federal justice system. Discrimination is sometimes acknowledged by governments in Canada, but rarely addressed fully, and there’s also often a lack of political will to address these issues. For instance, we were all witness to the shocking Colten Boushie trial in North Battleford last year that left the public to question bias within the criminal justice system.  

Personally, I think that this legislation leads to more risk for people of colour and also people with lower economic means to be targeted by police. In some ways with racial bias, but more likely with unconscious bias, which I believe can be just as harmful. 

I think that the new legislation is just another short-sighted cash grab by the Saskatchewan government, and it will not help to solve the impaired driving problem. On the contrary, I believe other policing and social issues will get worse.

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