'Tis the season for holiday parties and police R.I.D.E. programs across the GTA.

Toronto Police launched the 2013 Festive R.I.D.E. (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere) Thursday night, and will increase patrols through the weekend. Peel Regional Police started their program Friday morning, and the Ontario Provincial Police start their blitz on Saturday.

On Monday, Nov. 25, Durham Regional Police will amp up their patrols, and York Region will follow on Wednesday, Nov. 27.

Police officers will be monitoring streets and highways across the GTA, looking for signs of intoxicated drivers. They will be looking for drivers under the influence of illegal drugs, excessive alcohol or prescription or over-the-counter drugs that make it unsafe to operate a vehicle.

"We do have drug recognition officers when you're on the road, and they will be able to tell when you're speaking to them whether or not you're on a drug, alcohol, or a cocktail of both," Const. Clint Stibbe told CTV Toronto.

The provincial Ministry of Transportation of Ontario estimates that drinking and driving accounts for 25 per cent of fatal motor vehicle collisions.

"The festive season is not having to tell someone that their wife, husband, family member or friend is not coming home because of an alcohol- or drug-impaired driver," Toronto Police Const. Wendy Drummond said in a press release Friday.

In 2011 and 2012, OPP laid 1,375 impaired driving charges throughout the province. In addition, they issued a total of 1,208 license suspensions for three, five or 30 days. 

In the Toronto area, 149 people were slapped with suspensions, and 151 people were charged with impaired driving or refusal to submit to a blood-alcohol test.

Across Canada, there were 90,277 impaired driving incidents in 2011, and Ontario had one of the lowest rates among the provinces, OPP Deputy Commissioner Larry Beechy said in a press release.


What you need to know: 

  • The legal limit is a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of more than 0.08, or 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. The amount of alcohol required to reach the limit varies from person to person.
  • If your BAC is over 0.08, or you fail to comply with testing, you can face a criminal charge.
  • Even if you're under the legal limit, with a BAC of 0.05, the Ministry of Transportation says an individual's vision may already be affected and reaction time will be slower.  Police call this the 'warn range,' and you may face a fine or license suspension.
  • If a police officer thinks a driver is impaired, they will ask the driver to submit to a breath test. The results aren't conclusive, but you may be asked to submit to further testing.
  • If it's your first offence, and your blood alcohol limit is between 0.05 and 0.08, your license will be suspended for three days, and you'll face a $150 fine. The Ministry has a breakdown of penalties on their website.
  • Novice drivers must maintain a zero BAC while driving, regardless of age.


Rewards program:

For seven years, R.I.D.E. CHECKS coupon booklets have been passed out by GTA police to unimpaired drivers as a reward. The booklets also contain information on the costs and consequences of an impaired driving conviction.