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The challenges of implementing interlock best practices in a federal state: the Canadian experience
  1. Erika Chamberlain,
  2. Robert M Solomon
  1. Faculty of Law, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Professor Erika Chamberlain, Faculty of Law, Western University, London, ON N6A 3K7, Canada; echambe{at}

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Alcohol interlocks have been recognised as an effective and important component of the strategy to deal with impaired drivers.1 ,2 An interlock is a small breath-testing device connected to the engine to prevent a vehicle from being driven if the driver's blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is above a low preset level (usually 0.02%). Interlocks contain sophisticated anticircumvention features and computerised data logs that record the results of all breath tests and attempts to tamper with the device. Over the past few decades, various jurisdictions have introduced interlock programmes as an impaired driving countermeasure. Accordingly, interlocks have been the subject of extensive consultation and collaboration among researchers and policy-makers worldwide.3 This has resulted in a catalogue of ‘best practices’ that is generally supported by researchers and readily accessible to governments and licensing authorities.4 Nevertheless, there remains a relatively disparate set of interlock programmes in force around the world. The variety of programmes is particularly obvious in federal nations, like Canada, where each province and territoryi has authority over driver and motor vehicle licensing.

Canada's division of legislative authority

Canada is somewhat unique among federal nations in that criminal law is governed by a federal Criminal Code.5 Thus, it is the federal government that has established the criminal impaired driving offences and their respective penalties. For example, the offences of impaired driving, driving with a BAC above 0.08% and refusing to participate in a required impairment test each carry a minimum sentence of a $1000 fine and a 1-year driving prohibition for a first offence. In addition to and alongside these federal criminal sanctions, each province can impose administrative licensing and other countermeasures, including suspensions and mandatory remedial programmes.6 , …

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  • Competing interests Robert Solomon is National Director of Legal Policy for MADD Canada. Erika Chamberlain has been a research consultant for MADD Canada. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • i Future references to ‘provinces’ should be understood as referring to both provinces and territories.