What is impaired driving

Impaired driving means operating a vehicle while your ability to do so has been compromised to any degree by consuming:

  • alcohol
  • drugs including:
    • cannabis
    • over-the-counter drugs
    • prescription medication
    • illegal substances
  • a combination of the above

In addition to driving cars and trucks, impaired driving laws also apply to those operating boats, snowmobiles and off-road vehicles.

If police determine that you have drugs or alcohol in your system and/or that you are impaired by any substance, you can face severe consequences and potential criminal charges.

Alcohol and driving

In Ontario, alcohol-impaired driving is one of the leading causes of death on the roads. Your gender, weight, age, mood and what you ate can affect how your body responds to alcohol.

When you drink, you may experience:

  • blurred or double vision
  • difficulty paying attention to the road and your surroundings
  • slowed reflexes

You can face charges if your blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 or more, or if you are in the warn range (blood alcohol concentration between 0.05 and 0.079).

Under Ontario’s zero tolerance law for young and novice drivers, you cannot have any alcohol in your system if you are:

  • age 21 or under
  • a driver of any age who holds a G1, G2, M1, or M2 licence

Avoid drinking and driving by planning ahead.

Cannabis and driving

It is dangerous to drive with cannabis in your system, and the penalties are the same as for alcohol-impaired driving. Ontario’s zero-tolerance laws for young and novice drivers also apply to cannabis.

Read more about how cannabis affects your driving and the laws for cannabis users.

Penalties

Police have tools and tests to detect impaired drivers, including roadside drug screening equipment and sobriety tests.

If the police determine that you are driving while impaired, you can face:

  • immediate licence suspensions
  • fines and reinstatement fees
  • enrollment into education or treatment programs
  • vehicle impoundment
  • harsher penalties upon conviction

Penalties can vary depending on your age, licence type, the amount of alcohol or drugs in your system, and how many times you have been convicted or had your licence suspended.

Warn range penalties for all drivers

  • with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) between 0.05-0.079
  • who fail the Standard Field Sobriety Test (alcohol and/or drugs)
    • First time
      • 3-day immediate licence suspension
      • $250 penalty
    • Second time
      • 7-day immediate licence suspension
      • education or treatment program
      • $350 penalty
    • Third time
      • 30-day immediate licence suspension
      • education or treatment program
      • Ignition Interlock condition for six months
      • $450 penalty

You’ll also have to pay a licence reinstatement fee every time your licence is suspended.

Impairment penalties for all drivers

  • with Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0.08 or more
  • who fail or refuse to comply with a demand for alcohol or drug testing
  • who perform poorly during a Drug Recognition Expert evaluation (drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol)
    • First time
      • immediate roadside 90-day suspension
      • 7-day vehicle impoundment
      • $550 penalty
    • Second time
      • immediate roadside 90-day suspension
      • 7-day vehicle impoundment
      • education and treatment program
      • $550 penalty
    • Third time
      • immediate roadside 90-day suspension
      • 7-day vehicle impoundment
      • education and treatment program
      • Ignition Interlock condition for six months
      • $550 penalty

You’ll also have to pay a licence reinstatement fee every time your licence is suspended.

Additional penalties for criminal impaired driving charges

No matter what age or licence you have, if you are convicted criminally of impaired driving in court, you can face additional fines and jail time, plus:

First conviction
  • licence suspension of at least 1 year
  • you must attend a mandatory education or treatment program
  • requirement to use an ignition interlock device for at least 1 year
Second conviction within 10 years
  • licence suspension of at least 3 years
  • you must attend a mandatory education or treatment program
  • requirement to use an ignition interlock device for at least 3 years
  • you will need to undergo a mandatory medical evaluation to determine whether you meet the requirements for driving in Ontario
Third conviction within 10 years
  • lifetime licence suspension, which may be reduced after 10 years if you meet certain criteria
  • you must attend a mandatory education or treatment program
  • requirement to use an ignition interlock device for at least 6 years
  • you will need to undergo a mandatory medical evaluation to determine whether you meet the requirements for driving in Ontario
Fourth conviction within 10 years
  • lifetime licence suspension, with no possibility of reduction

In some cases, you may be able to reduce the length of your suspension by installing an ignition interlock device.

Penalties for Young and Novice Drivers

If you are 21 and under or have a G1, G2, M1 or M2 licence you cannot have any drugs or alcohol in your system. You will face these penalties, plus you can face additional penalties for impairment just like any other fully licenced-driver.

  • First time
    • 3-day immediate roadside licence suspension
    • $60-$1000 fine (if convicted)
    • $250 penalty
  • Second time
    • 7-day immediate roadside licence suspension
    • $60-$1000 fine (if convicted)
    • education or treatment program
    • $350 penalty
  • Third time
    • 30-day immediate roadside licence suspension
    • $60-$1000 fine (if convicted)
    • education or treatment program
    • Ignition Interlock condition for six months
    • $450 penalty

Once convicted, your licence can be suspended for an additional 30 or 90 days, or cancelled, depending on your age and the class of driver’s licence you have.

You’ll also have to pay a licence reinstatement fee every time your licence is suspended.

How to avoid impaired driving

The best way to avoid impaired driving is to not take a chance. Plan another way home:

  • have a designated driver
  • use public transit
  • call a friend or family member for a ride
  • call a taxi or ride share
  • stay overnight