Sometimes the news is good and there’s no way to spin it to make it look bad. Statistics Canada has come out with its report on impaired driving for 2015, and among the information contained in it is one fact that definitely falls under the rubric of good news. We’ll reproduce the highlight in its entirety:
In 2015, impaired driving reported by police was at its lowest level since 1986, the year that data on impaired driving were first collected. Both the number of incidents reported and the impaired driving rate per 100,000 population have dropped over the last 30 years ”
The chart tells the story, or at least, a part of the story. How Canada got there is another part, and that’s important if the country is to keep going.
Like many nations, Canada has worked hard on reducing impaired driving for years. In 1985 new laws specifying greater penalties for impaired driving were added to the Criminal Code. Throughout the 1990s provinces added their own efforts: graduated licensing programs, vehicle impoundment laws, mandatory alcohol assessment and treatment programs, and ignition interlock programs. All of these helped reduce drunk driving recidivism.
In recent years the trend has been toward strengthening of those laws. Saskatchewan recently strengthened its DUI laws. Alberta passed the Transportation Safety Amendment Act, which closed a loophole by which convicted impaired drivers could avoid an ignition interlock requirement. Likewise, New Brunswick mandated interlocks for all drunk driving offenses.
There are other factors. Like other Western countries, Canada has an aging population, and since drunk drivers skew young, older drivers will tend to be more sober ones – to a point. Awareness campaigns have also been effective, as have alternatives like rideshare and designated driver services.
Rural areas will always be a problem, and that is probably one of the reason that the downturn tends to level off.
Impaired driving is not one problem – it is many problems. Or you could call it one criminal act that can be prevented various ways. The info from Statistics Canada shows that the measures we’ve been using – graduated licencing, impoundment, treatment, ignition interlocks, and awareness campaigns – have been working. The better we understand which measures are responsible for the downturn, and the better we apply them, the more lives we can save on Canada’s roads in the future.