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Driving tips

Three surprising ways liquor and cars can get you arrested

Drinking and driving? Obviously. But here are three things you probably DIDN'T know were illegal

Published October 25, 2013
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We all know drinking and driving is a huge no-no. But some of the finer points of the law as it pertains to liquor and vehicles may surprise you, not to mention get you in trouble. Here, Wheels columnist Eric Lai shares some common actions you might not know are illegal:

1: You can’t drink liquor even if your car is turned off and you’re not in it.

Under the Liquor Licence Act, having an open liquor container in a vehicle, or liquor readily available to the driver (in the front seat) are offences. In a pickup without a backseat or locking cargo area, front seat transport is okay, provided the container seals are unbroken.

Drinking alcoholic beverages in or around your vehicle is illegal, whether or not the ignition is on. It’s considered unlawful consumption.

Some examples include drinking beer when parked in public areas, such as a parking lot, by the lake, or in a park.

2. Tailgate parties are illegal.

“Tailgate parties” where revellers drink beer in a stadium, ballpark or arena parking lot are also against the law.

Alcoholic beverages may only be consumed on private property or a location that possesses a permit, notes York Regional Police Const. Laura Nicolle. “Drinking in a public parking lot is definitely illegal.”

You can have a drink in a motorhome, provided it’s parked at its overnight location, such as an RV site, and is actually being used as a temporary or permanent residence at the time, rather than as a means of transportation.

3. Drinking in a parked car is illegal (if the key is with  you)

If your car or truck is parked on the street outside your home and you decide to watch a video on the in-car DVD player while having a beer, charges of unlawful consumption/open container, impaired care or control of a motor vehicle, or public intoxication (walking back to your house) might all apply, depending on the circumstances.

Even if you’re asleep, parked on the roadside to sleep off a bender, you may still be charged with impaired care or control of a motor vehicle — provided you have the key in your possession.

The point is: while referred to as “drinking and driving” laws, in many instances you don’t actually have to be drinking or driving at the time for charges to apply. An open container or being intoxicated with a car key in your pocket will suffice.

Email your non-mechanical questions to Eric Lai at wheels@thestar.ca. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.

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