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Impaired Driving Definition for Ontario

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Learn about Ontario’s impaired driving laws and the penalties you could face if you drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs.

What is impaired driving?

Impaired driving means operating a vehicle (including cars, trucks, boats, snowmobiles and off-road vehicles) while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

It is a crime under the Criminal Code of Canada and the consequences are serious. You may:

  • lose your licence
  • have your vehicle impounded
  • need to pay an administrative monetary penalty
  • need to attend an education or treatment program
  • be fined upon conviction
  • be required to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle
  • spend time in jail

Ontario is a leader in combating impaired driving through some of the toughest laws and programs in North America.

For more information on the consequences of operating a snowmobile or off-road vehicle while impaired please refer to the following pages

Drinking and driving

Even one drink can reduce your ability to react to things that happen suddenly while you are driving. The effects of alcohol include blurred or double vision, impaired attention and slowed reflexes. Your life and the lives of others can change forever if you drive after drinking alcohol.

Blood alcohol concentration

The amount of alcohol in your body is measured by the amount of the alcohol in your blood. This is called blood alcohol concentration, or BAC. Once you take a drink, there is no way to guess what your BAC is.

Many factors can affect your blood alcohol level including:

  • how fast you drink
  • whether you are male or female
  • your body weight
  • the amount of food in your stomach

In Ontario and the rest of Canada, the maximum legal BAC for fully licensed drivers is 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood (0.08). Driving with BAC over 0.08 is a criminal offence.

Warn range

In Ontario, your BAC does not have to be over the 0.08 legal limit to result in serious consequences. If you register a BAC from 0.05 to 0.08 (commonly referred to as the warn range), you will face provincial administrative penalties.

Drug impaired driving

Drugs can also impair your ability to drive. This is true for both illegal drugs and prescription or over-the-counter medication.

Tips to avoid impaired driving

There are simple steps you can take to avoid driving while you’re impaired by drugs or alcohol:

  • make sure you have a plan to get home safely
  • ask your doctor or pharmacist about side effects related to driving when using prescription medication
  • read the information on the package of any prescription drugs or over-the-counter medicine, including allergy and cold remedies
  • ask your doctor or pharmacist about how a prescription drug could affect you- drugs and alcohol together can impair your driving even more than either one alone

Remember, fatigue and stress will also affect your ability to drive safely.

Consequences of impaired driving

Zero BAC

The Zero BAC law means that certain drivers cannot have any presence of alcohol in their blood while they drive. This law applies to:

  • all drivers age 21 or under
  • novice drivers of any age

If you are caught with a BAC above zero, here is what will happen:

  • your driver’s licence will be suspended on the spot for 24 hours
  • if convicted, your driver’s licence will be suspended again for at least 30 days and you will receive a $60-$500 fine

If you are a novice driver and have your licence suspended for drinking and driving, your licence could be cancelled. You will have to retake all your driving tests and repay all the fees.

If your BAC tests in the Warn Range (0.05 – 0.08):

Consequences for driving in the Warn Range.
Number of instances Consequences
First time
  • 3-day roadside licence suspension
    (cannot be appealed)
  • $180 administrative monetary penalty
Second time (within 5 years)
  • 7-day roadside licence suspension
    (cannot be appealed)
  • Mandatory alcohol education program
  • $180 administrative monetary penalty
Third and subsequent times (within 5 years)
  • 30-day roadside licence suspension
    (cannot be appealed)
  • Mandatory alcohol treatment program
  • Six-month ignition interlock
  • $180 administrative monetary penalty

If you test over the legal limit of 0.08 OR refuse a drug or alcohol test:

  • 90-day roadside licence suspension
  • $180 administrative monetary penalty
  • 7 day vehicle impoundment

If you are convicted of impaired driving:

Penalties for impaired driving convictions.
Number of instances Penalties
First time
  • Mandatory alcohol education or treatment program
  • 1 year minimum requirement to drive a car equipped with an ignition interlock device
  • No minimum jail sentence
  • $1,000 fine
  • Licence suspended for 1 year*
Second time
  • Mandatory alcohol education or treatment program
  • 3 year minimum requirement to drive a car equipped with an ignition interlock device
  • 30-day minimum jail sentence
  • Fine amount at the discretion of the judge
  • Licence suspended for 3 years
Third and subsequent times
  • Mandatory alcohol education or treatment program
  • Lifetime minimum requirement to drive a car equipped with an ignition interlock device
  • 120-day minimum jail sentence
  • Fine amount at the discretion of the judge
  • Lifetime licence suspension (can be reduced to 10 years if certain conditions are met)

*The Reduced Suspension with Ignition Interlock Conduct Review Program will eligible drivers convicted for the first time of an alcohol impaired driving offence under the Criminal Code to reduce their licence suspension in return for meeting specific requirements, such as the mandatory installation of an approved ignition interlock device in their vehicle.