Out of every 100,000 Nova Scotians, 217 people are picked up for drunk driving. Across Canada as a whole, the number of impaired drivers per 100,000 population is just 167.
This discrepancy is cause for concern in the province. DUI rates are generally on the decline in Canada, but Nova Scotia appears to more reluctant than most to renounce its old habits. That’s why 1,048 people were arrested for impaired driving in 2014, the last year for which Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics has compiled numbers.
Possible reasons for the higher rates:
- Better enforcement. It’s always possible that the Nova Scotia RCMP is just better at arresting impaired drivers than other provinces. Sometimes a blits of checkpoints or patrols can yield higher numbers. However, the RCMP itself has not suggested that this is the case.
- Drinking culture. A 2011 government report found that Nova Scotians drink more than most Canadians, and have higher binge drinking rates than other provinces. In 2014, a study by the Nova Scotia Department of Health found that youths were taking their first drink at age 13. There was also significant peer pressure to binge drink. If there’s one thing that’s well known, it’s that more drinking leads to higher rates of impaired driving in a community.
- Insufficient DUI laws. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada gave Nova Scotia a “D” rating on their efforts to combat impaired driving. One major reason is that the province does not impound the vehicles of drivers who blow in the warn range (a BAC over .05 but under .08). This removes what MADD believes is a powerful incentive to change one’s ways.
Also, Nova Scotia does not mandate ignition interlocks (car breathalyzers) for first offenders, and does not require the devices long enough for repeat offenses. And it does not impose ALS (Automatic License Suspension) at the roadside for those believed to be impaired while driving, or who refuse a sobriety test.
While addressing a permissive drinking culture is a long process (one which Nova Scotia has been working on for years now), changing laws is a much more approachable goal. We’re looking forward to seeing the province earn a more positive distinction: the one with the strongest, most comprehensive and effective impaired driving laws.