You want good news, Saskatchewan? Your drunk driving rate is going down.
You want bad news? Your DUI tally is still the highest in Canada.
Last year 575 impaired driving charges were filed per 100,000 Saskatchewan residents. That beat the runner-up, Alberta, which had only 314 DUI incidents per 100,000 people.
It is worth noting that Saskatchewan saw 683 incidents in 2014, so the drop was substantial.
Statistics Canada keeps track of impaired driving in Canada. They do a thorough job, which is why they don’t release the 2015 figures until the end of 2016.
The question is why – why Saskatchewan stands out in this year’s statistics. In fact, the province is notorious for a culture that tolerates drinking and driving more than most. A recent poll found that almost a fifth of residents accepted the idea of driving under the influence provided it was for a “short distance on quiet roads.”
Saskatchewan is also a rural province, with all that that implies: long stretches of lonely back roads and miles between the tavern and the home.
Let’s end this piece with some more good news. Saskatchewan will begin the year with new impaired driving laws:
- Zero tolerance for all drivers under 21.
- Any driver arrested with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .04 or over will have his or her vehicle seized for three days.
- Any driver arrested with a BAC of .08 or more will be required to install an ignition interlock. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.
- The interlock period will be one year for a first offense, three years for a second, and ten for a third or more. There are also ignition interlock penalties for refusing a breath test.
It will be extremely interesting to see what Statistics Canada has to say when these laws take effect. Our guess is Saskatchewan will show another drop, and perhaps it will no longer be in the lead. Such is the power of good impaired driving legislation – provided good enforcement is behind it. Fingers crossed, Saskatchewan.