WATCH: A controlled group of volunteers see if they could guess their own blood alcohol concentration to see if their definition of "impairment" matched the legal one.

We know it’s unsafe and we know the deadly consequences attached to it, yet statistics show Canadians are still drinking and driving.

In an Ipsos poll on behalf of Global News in 2016, one in four Canadians admitted to driving while legally drunk.

The poll also found two in 10 Canadians felt comfortable driving after a few drinks, even though they could have been over the legal limit.

“It’s 16 per cent of Canadians who say, ‘To heck with the legal limit, I know my limit so I feel comfortable getting behind the wheel,’” Sean Simpson, vice president of Ipsos Public Affairs told Global News in 2016.

Polls like this don’t surprise Michael Weinrath, a criminal justice professor at the University of Winnipeg. Weinrath, who has researched drunk driving, said the introduction of breathalyzers changed how often people got behind a wheel intoxicated.

“[Drinking and driving] was on a long downward trend,” he told Global News. “The decline in the ’80s was a few different things. There was an increase in health cautiousness and an increase in penalties.”

In Canada, the legal blood alcohol concentration for fully licensed drivers is 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood, or 0.08. Driving above this limit is a criminal offence and there are different rules, depending on which province or territory you live in.

But even if data suggests fewer people are drinking and driving (these rates go up and down depending on factors like police checks), Weinrath added that for the most part, people are still drinking and driving because they aren’t being caught.

Studies in the U.S. have shown the odds of getting caught are about one in 1,000 and Weinrath believed the numbers are similar here. “When people drive drunk they are [not] likely to be caught.”

And though there are reports of collisions, accidents and even deaths linked to drunk driving, Weinrath said some will still take the chance.

“It may be you are nervous at first and you don’t see any police cars … you are less worried the next time.”

READ MORE: No amount of alcohol — not even one glass of wine — is safe, global study says

And besides taking the risk of not being caught, he added others may not think they are as drunk as they actually are.

For some, like 33-year-old Nancy of Toronto, who has chosen not share her real name, she didn’t even realize how drunk her friend was one night.

“I was out with a friend who was driving and doesn’t often drink,” she told Global News. “He had two drinks and I had a bunch more … so I couldn’t immediately tell how intoxicated he was.”

She said when they got into the car, it quickly became obvious. “We decided to keep going because it was about 2 a.m. and not a lot of people were on the road. … We figured we could make it home in one piece,” she continued.

When her friend pulled up to park near her house, he fell out of the door and crawled onto a grass area and fell asleep. “I did too, I was so drunk. We woke up maybe an hour or two later, less drunk and he drove me home.”

Changes in legislation

Andrew Murie, CEO MADD Canada, told Global News next month’s changes to the country’s impaired-driving laws (Bill C-46) means law enforcement will be allowed to ask for a breath sample of any driver they stop, no longer needing reasonable suspicion. “This is going to have a huge impact for people making the decision to consume alcohol and drive,” Murie said.

Although there is push back against these changes, Murie said in other countries, deaths linked to impaired driving have decreased substantially.

He added provinces like B.C. already have strict laws on impounding vehicles, which have proven to be effective in getting people not to drink and drive.

“Educating people isn’t enough. … It doesn’t work.”

What parents can do

When targeting a young driving population, Weinrath said it starts at home. He said sometimes this means not giving your child the car or offering to pick them up after their event. You can also pay for their Uber or Lyft, pay for a cab or offer a ride-sharing program.

“You want to model appropriate behaviour and communicate to your kids it’s not a good thing [to drink and drive].”

Murie said these conversations need to be ongoing and there needs to be a plan set in place for the vehicle and even passengers as well.

“It’s every time you go out.”

Source: Global News


Last updated on: 2019-01-25 | Link to this post