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PEI transportation minister eyes unique licence plates for drunk drivers


In the tiny province of Prince Edward Island, with a mere 140,000 people and few strangers, Transportation Minister Robert Vessey wants convicted drunk drivers to have distinctive licence plates so Islanders know exactly who has been drunk at the wheel.

Nowhere else are such plates used in Canada, but that is not the case in the United States, where they are appear in a number of states. In Minnesota, they're referred to as "Whiskey Plates" for the distinctive capital "W" on the licence plates of convicted drunk drivers. In Ohio, 6,527 distinctive bright red and yellow plates were issued to drunk drivers last year.

In PEI, the minister envisions convicted drivers with pink, red or blue plates, or a special letter on their plates, or perhaps an emblem on their windshields – it's all still up for discussion.

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"Just something outside the box," said Mr. Vessey, who is convening a meeting of police and other officials for early next year to talk about it.

The minister insists the program is not aimed at playing the shame game or trying to humiliate anyone.

"It's just another thing if you're planning on having a few drinks, if you're going to jump behind your wheel, it's just something to think about," he said.

PEI's rate of impaired driving was only slightly reduced last year from 2010, compared to big reductions in the three other Atlantic provinces.

So Mr. Vessey is focused on reducing it, introducing tough measures last month, including requiring first-time offenders to have ignition interlocks on their vehicles.

Civil libertarians aren't sold. "It definitely raises privacy and dignity concerns," said Abby Deshman, director of the public safety program with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

MADD – Mothers Against Drunk Driving – does not support "shaming impaired drivers. We want to stop it at the front end," said MADD Canada's chief executive officer, Andy Murie.

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"… And so if governments are going to do these types of things just to say they've done something, then shame on them."

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the name of the Canadian Civil Liberties Assocation. This online version has been corrected.

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