What is it going to take to stop drunk drivers in Canada? Although older data shows a 50% drop in impaired driving deaths since 1981, a recent detailed analysis from Statistics Canada shows the rates of impaired driving have actually increased over the past four or five years. That’s despite laws in Ontario and British Columbia requiring immediate driver’s license suspensions, high fines, and ignition interlock programs for first time offenders.
It’s discouraging news for law enforcement and lawmakers in the country, and the on-going issue of impaired driving seems to be due to a few problems. To start, in relation to how many people drive drunk, the likelihood of being arrested for impaired driving in Canada is very low. A recent CBC article stated that based on police patrols and checkpoints set up, the average Canadian could drive impaired one per week for three years before it would catch up with them and they would be charged with an offense.
Another issue is the lack of random breath testing. Although random breath testing is used in other countries to fight impaired driving, police in Canada do not have the authority to perform random breath testing at any time. Most drivers will pass through a checkpoint without being asked to submit a breath sample, and because any amount of alcohol in your system can impair your driving abilities, these drivers could just pass through and drive on to cause a fatal crash.
Legal loopholes are another issue in Canada, and one doctor recently drew attention to the get-out-of-jail free card some impaired drivers will use after an impaired driving related crash. They’ll ask to be taken to the hospital, refuse all treatment, and leave before the police arrive to interview them.
The good news is that the conviction rate for impaired drivers has jumped. Statistics Canada reported that 84% of impaired driving cases that went to court resulted in a guilty verdict, and because of tough impaired driving laws in Canada, most of those individuals lost their driver’s license and must drive with an ignition interlock device.
There might be no instant solution to eliminating drunk drivers from the roads in Canada, but with tough impaired driving laws, law enforcement stepping up their patrols, and lawmakers constantly reviewing impaired driving laws, at least they’re taking a step in the right direction.