Stiffer penalties are in store for Alberta motorists who are caught driving while impaired on the province's roads.

The new penalties kicked in Saturday, specifically aimed at drivers who are found to have a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) that’s lower than the legal limit of .08, but above .05 – which provincial officials consider unsafe.

Now, a driver who is found to have a BAC within the .05-.08 range after a roadside test will have their license suspended and their vehicle impounded for three days.

The penalties increase for subsequent offences: For example, a driver found to have a BAC within that range for a second time will face a 15 day license suspension, with their vehicles impounded for a week – including a day-long course about the dangers of drinking and driving.

If a driver is caught more than twice, their license is suspended for a month, their vehicle is impounded for one week and the driver would be required to take another course on the impact of alcohol in their life.

The change is part of a two phase change to traffic safety laws in Alberta aimed at cracking down on drunk drivers.

It’s a change Gillian Phillips with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is glad to see – she believed the previous 24 hour suspension wasn’t enough.

“So many people cover it up, you can’t really explain not having your vehicle for three days,” Phillips said. “24 hours is too easy, 72 hours – where is your vehicle?”

The provincial opposition has been against the changes to the penalties, said more resources are needed – not harsher consequences.

“I’ve never been checked at a Checkstop, I know many Albertans only are during long weekends and things like that,” Wildrose MLA Shane Saskiw said Friday. “That is what would get more drunks off the road, more officers and more Checkstops.”

However, police believe the changes will make a difference.

“Legislation that prevents drinking and driving is certainly beneficial to our society,” Deputy Police Chief David Korol said.

Police and MADD said on average one in 30 vehicles have an impaired driver behind the wheel.

In addition to the penalties, the drivers would also have to pay the cost of towing and impounding the vehicles.

The cost of towing a vehicle is $116.00, plus $2.00 per kilometre – and the cost of impounding is $30 per day – plus a $50 license re-instatement fee.

The penalties have already increased for drivers caught with a BAC over the legal limit of .08 – those who blow over .08 can face impaired driving charges under the Criminal Code.

As of July 1, those drivers faced having their vehicles impounded for three days – and their licenses would be suspended indefinitely until their cases are resolved in the court system.

With files from Kevin Armstrong