Oakville, Ontario – An average of 10 impaired driving criminal charges and short-term provincial licence suspensions were laid every hour in Canada in 2019, as shown in a new report from MADD Canada. The report, Short-Term Alcohol and Drug-Related Licence Suspensions and Federal Impaired Driving Charges Laid Per Year, Per 100,000 Residents and the Average Per Day, by Jurisdiction: Canada, 2010-2019, shows that in 2019:
- 86,964 total charges and short-term suspensions were laid;
- 232 charges and short-term suspensions were laid for every 100,000 Canadians; and
- an average of 238 charges and short-term suspensions were laid daily.
“When we break that daily rate of 238 impaired driving charges and short-term suspensions down, we are looking at an average of nearly 10 every hour,” said MADD Canada Chief Executive Officer Andrew Murie. “It’s extremely disturbing and completely unacceptable.”
The report breaks the charge and short-term suspension rate down by alcohol and drug-related incidences, and also provides the annual totals, the rate per 100,000 and the daily breakdowns for each province. (The territories were not included due to the relatively small number of licence suspensions and federal impaired driving charges involved.)
It should be noted that a higher charge and short-term suspension rate in one province over another does not necessarily mean more impaired driving. The rates are impacted by the administrative programs each province has implemented. For example, British Columbia has the highest rate per 100,000 residents, while Quebec has among the lowest. However, British Columbia has a robust short-term licence suspension program for drivers with a BAC equal to or above .05%, and an immediate roadside prohibition program, whereas Quebec does not have these programs. As such, Quebec only has the criminal system and thus its numbers are artificially low when compared to the other provinces.
A key finding in the report was the increase in the rate of alcohol-related charges and short-term suspensions, which had been on the decline for several years. That rate actually increased from 75,393 in 2018 to 77,645 in 2019. It is the first increase in alcohol-related charges and short-term suspensions since 2011.
Mr. Murie cautioned that the increase must be viewed within the context of the new mandatory alcohol screening law that went into effect in late 2018, giving police the authority to demand a roadside breath test from every driver lawfully stopped.
“An increased rate of charges or suspensions does not directly translate to an increased number of impaired drivers, particularly when you factor in new laws. MADD Canada strongly believes the increase in charges in 2019 is likely largely due to the introduction of mandatory alcohol
screening,” Mr. Murie said. “This measure is something that MADD Canada had been calling on lawmakers to introduce for nearly a decade, and we are pleased to see it in place and working so effectively.”
MADD Canada expects that rate to decrease again in 2020 and possibly in 2021, due to a number of factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including: stay at home orders; bar/restaurant closures; and the lowered rate of mandatory alcohol screening, which was understandably reduced during the pandemic.
As things open back up and vaccination rates increase, MADD Canada hopes to see the use of mandatory alcohol screening return to, and exceed, pre-pandemic levels. In fact, widespread use of mandatory alcohol screening is a priority recommendation MADD Canada made in our Top 10 Report: Provincial and Territorial Measures to Minimize Impaired Driving and Support Victims.
Even knowing that the increase largely points to the effectiveness of the new mandatory alcohol screening law, it is still disappointing that Canadians continue to disregard the law.
“Everyone knows impaired driving is illegal. Everyone knows it is dangerous. Everyone knows that it kills and injures innocent Canadians,” Mr. Murie said. “It is unbelievable to us, and absolutely tragic, that anyone takes this chance with their own life or the lives others.”
For more information, contact:
Andrew Murie, MADD Canada Chief Executive Officer, 416-720-7642 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Deb Kelly, MADD Canada Communications Manager, 1-800-665-6233, ext. 240 or email@example.com.