Ontario launches second phase of vehicle impoundment program

TORONTO (Feb. 15) — If suspending the licence of drivers who have been convicted of a serious driving offence isn’t enough, “then we’ll take away their vehicles as well,’ said Ontario Transportation Minister Tony Clement, announcing the province’s latest car and truck impoundment initiative.

The program, announced last November, takes effect tomorrow and applies to all drivers and vehicles licensed by the province. Vehicles driven by any person apprehended for driving while suspended for a Criminal Code offence will be confiscated for a minimum of 45 days.

Impaired driving offences account for about 85% of all such convictions, Clement said. He noted that while the total number of alcohol-related suspensions has decreased from about 30,000 in the late 1980s to less than 20,000 in 1996, the proportion of suspensions issued to repeat offenders has risen considerably.

Owners of impounded vehicles will be responsible for paying all towing and storage costs, which are expected to range from $900 to $1100 per vehicle. Vehicles will be held at provincially designated impoundment yards and will not be returned until the full term is up and towing and storage costs are paid.

The program is the final measure being implemented from Bill 138, the Comprehensive Road Safety Act enacted in 1997. Ontario has had a commercial vehicle impoundment program since February 1998, to remove trucks with serious defects from Ontario roads.

Vehicle owners must make all reasonable efforts (i.e. due diligence) to ensure that any person driving their vehicle has a valid driver’s licence. The province has set up a telephone hotline at 1-900-565-6555 where the caller can key in the driver’s licence number. A cost of $2.50 for each driver’s licence check will be charged to the caller’s phone bill. In May, the service will be available via the Internet.

Vehicle owners can also check whether a person’s driver’s licence is valid by obtaining a driver abstract from one of the province’s private or public licence issuing offices, or by using one of the province’s self-serve kiosks. The vehicle owner will receive confirmation of whether the driver’s licence is valid.

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