OPP begin mandatory alcohol checks at all Waterloo Region traffic stops

Be prepared to provide a breath sample if you are stopped by the OPP on a Waterloo Region highway.

On Thursday, the OPP announced that officers are now conducting mandatory alcohol checks (MAS) during every traffic stop in the Greater Toronto Area.

The project includes Waterloo Region roads that are patrolled by the OPP’s Cambridge detachment, including Highway 7/8, Highway 85 and Highway 401, said Sgt. Kerry Schmidt confirmed it.

The OPP calls the initiative “the strictest measures yet to reduce drunk driving.”

Collisions and drink-driving charges have increased by almost 30 per cent compared to the previous five-year average, according to the force.

Schmidt says it’s not always obvious if a driver has been drinking.

“We’ve seen drunk drivers with not much… breath odor because of the wind and weather,” he told CP24.

“Now this eliminates any bias, any situation. “We’re just going to evaluate everyone.”

Drivers who refuse could be charged

Under Canada’s MAS law, introduced in 2018, police officers can require a breath sample from drivers even if they do not suspect they have drunk alcohol.

Schmidt says drivers who refuse to take a breathalyzer test will face consequences.

“They refuse, it’s the same as failing. “It is a criminal offense to refuse to provide a breath sample.”

In Ontario, drivers with a full G license must have a blood alcohol concentration of less than 0.05%. The warning range is 0.05 to 0.079, and deterioration is considered 0.08 or more.

There is a zero tolerance policy for any driver 21 years of age or younger, any driver with a G1, G2, M1 or M2 license, and commercial vehicle operators.

“This is an unjustified power,” says CCLA

Drivers who spoke to CTV News at Cambridge OnRoute on Thursday had mixed feelings about the new initiative, with some saying it feels like an invasion of privacy.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) has similar concerns.

“This is an unwarranted power to intrude into someone’s life without any suspicion that they have done anything wrong,” said Shakir Rahim, director of CCLA’s criminal justice program.

Rahim says the CCLA does not believe mandatory alcohol testing will lead to less drunk driving.

He also disagrees with the OPP’s claim that testing everyone eliminates any bias.

“We already know that if you look at who gets stopped by police on the road, those people disproportionately come from racialized communities. Therefore, the impact of this practice will fall hardest on communities that are already over-policed,” Rahim said.