Modes of Transportation – In an Automobile

Drinking and Driving: Impairment and Consequences

Alcohol impairs your ability to drive as of the first drink. If you drink and drive, you are putting your life and the lives of others at risk, and you are also exposing yourself to serious legal consequences.

The effects of alcohol on driving

  • Increased risk-taking
  • False sense of security and control
  • Difficulty maintaining a constant speed
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Slower reaction times
  • Sudden movements
  • Poor coordination
  • Drowsiness

You can be arrested if:

  • your blood alcohol concentration is equal to or over the legal limit of 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood (0.08)
  • your ability to drive is impaired by drugs or alcohol, even if your blood alcohol concentration is below 0.08
  • you refuse to obey the orders of a peace officer, such as the order to breathe into an alcohol-screening device or to perform physical coordination tests

Legal consequences of drinking and driving

Below are some of the possible legal consequences of drinking and driving. This is only an overview and penalties may vary based on the number of offences and the blood alcohol concentration, among other things.

First offence

Penalties

Highway Safety Code Criminal Code

Upon arrest
  • Immediate licence suspension: 24 hours or 90 days (depending on the situation)
  • Immediate vehicle seizure and impoundment: 30 days (depending on the situation)

Following a criminal conviction
  • Prohibition from driving for a minimum one-year period
  • Licence revocation: 1 or 3 years (depending on the situation) or longer (depending on the decision of the court)
  • Program to assess and reduce the risk of impaired driving (depending on the situation) (website in French only)
  • Alcofrein program (depending on the situation)
  • Mandatory alcohol ignition interlock device (variable duration, depending on the situation)
  • Criminal record
  • Mandatory minimum fine of $1,000
  • Prohibition from driving for a minimum one-year period

In the case of a repeat offence within a period of 10 years, the penalties under the Highway Safety Code and the Criminal Code include:

  • Upon arrest
  • Following a criminal conviction
    • Program to assess and reduce the risk of impaired driving (depending on the situation) (website in French only)
    • Prohibition from driving for a minimum two-year period 
    • Licence revocation: 3 or 5 years (depending on the situation) or longer (depending on the decision of the court) 
    • Imprisonment
    • Prohibition from registering, acquiring, renting or leasing a vehicle, or putting a vehicle into operation under your name (depending on the situation)
    • Alcohol ignition interlock device for life (possibility of applying for its removal after 10 years only in the case of a first repeat offence)(depending on the situation)

In the case of a second or subsequent repeat offence within a period of 10 years, the penalties under the Highway Safety Code and the Criminal Code include:

  • Upon arrest
    • Immediate licence suspension: 90 days
    • Immediate vehicle seizure and impoundment: 90 days 
  • Following a criminal conviction
    • Prohibition from driving for a minimum two-year period 
    • Licence revocation: 3 or 5 years (depending on the situation) or longer (depending on the decision of the court) 
    • Imprisonment 
    • Prohibition from registering, acquiring, renting or leasing a vehicle, or putting a vehicle into operation under your name 
    • Alcohol ignition interlock device for life

Costs related to a first offence

  • $1,750 minimum, in addition to non-quantifiable inconveniences and variable costs, such as:
    • criminal record
    • lawyer's fees
    • costs related to the use of an alcohol ignition interlock device (which vary depending on the duration) 
    • increased personal automobile insurance premiums 
    • other costs such as court fees, a contribution to the crime victim’s compensation plan (IVAC), etc.

See the What the Law Says section for a detailed description of costs and penalties.

Traffic offences you commit outside Québec follow you... back to Québec

Québec has entered into reciprocal agreements with Ontario, Maine and the State of New York.

Any offences leading to demerit points that you commit in those jurisdictions are entered on your driving record at the SAAQ, exactly as if those offences had been committed in Québec.

Penalties for not obeying the zero alcohol rule that applies if you are...

Under 22 years of age or if you hold a learner's licence or a probationary licence

  • Immediate licence suspension for 90 days
  • demerit points
  • Fine of $300 to $600

Taxi, limousine, bus and minibus drivers

Immediate suspension of the corresponding class for 24 hours

Useful information

Care or control of a vehicle

The law not only prohibits impaired driving, but also having the care or control of a vehicle while impaired. Here are some situations that can have the same consequences as impaired driving:

  • sitting in the driver’s seat, even if the vehicle is stopped or broken down
  • being in the vehicle (even asleep on the back seat) and having the possibility of starting the engine
  • being near the vehicle, for example to brush snow off the car or put things in the trunk

The police officer will assess whether it was possible for the person to drive the vehicle and whether he or she intended to drive.

Refusal to obey a peace officer

Refusing to breathe into an alcohol-screening device or to perform physical coordination tests automatically results in the stiffer penalties provided for under the Criminal Code and the Highway Safety Code.

Simple and effective alternative solutions

Only time can eliminate the effects of drugs and medication, so plan accordingly! To get around, you can:

Myths and facts

Do you think you know a fool-proof trick for rapidly lowering your blood alcohol concentration? Read about drinking and driving myths and facts.