A recent and horrific bus crash in Humboldt has people wondering why so m any people die on Saskatchewan’s roads. On the search for causes, news reporters are digging into Transport Canada’s statistics and revealing some distressing numbers: Saskatchewan road fatalities are the highest in Canada, both in terms of general population and licensed drivers.
News articles and the spokespeople quoted usually state what is or isn’t being done about the situation, but little is said about what’s causing it. Mostly that’s because the causes aren’t known, or at least aren’t agreed on.
Impaired Driving Culture
One cause that’s sometimes mentioned is Saskatchewan’s culture of drinking and driving. Residents will tell you that it’s more permissible there to keep a couple of beers in your truck and sip as you travel around.
The Rural Problem
A good amount of Saskatchewan is rural, and rural populations tend to have higher rates of drunk driving. It’s worth noting that while Saskatchewan has the highest impaired driving rate as well as the highest fatality rate of the provinces, all three territories have much higher drunk driving rates. Of course, they have even less population density than Saskatchewan. A larger number of commuters cover long distances at high speeds.
However, a large part of the province’s population (about two thirds) lives in a city. In fact, almost a quarter of the population lives in Saskatoon. And both of Saskatchewan’s largest cities – Saskatoon and Regina – have high impaired driving rates, so it’s not just a matter of rural residents’ propensity to drive drunk because of the low likelihood of arrest on long, lonely stretches of road. That might play a part, but it’s an urban problem too.
No longer can judicial leniency be cited as a reason for impaired driving in Saskatchewan. In fact, the province is now quite hard on drunk driver. Since 2017 drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) between .04 and the legal limit of .08 can face strict action, including a 3-day vehicle impoundment. Saskatchewan also requires ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenders.
With no clear answer, legislators and public safety advocates will continue to argue and fret about what is to be done about impaired driving and road fatalities in Saskatchewan.