MADD Canada welcomes the release of the Statistics Canada's Juristat Article "Impaired Driving in Canada, 2011" and the spotlight it will shine on the impaired driving problem in this country.

With police-reported incidents of impaired driving reaching more than 90,000 in 2011, and the rate of impaired driving reaching its highest point in 10 years, it is clear that Canada needs to do more to stop this tragic and completely preventable crime.

"While it is extremely disappointing to see those rates on the rise, it does not come as a complete surprise," said Andrew Murie, Chief Executive Officer of MADD Canada. "Despite the laws and penalties, despite the education and awareness efforts, and despite the obvious and well-known risks to both the impaired drivers and those around them, we know people continued to drive impaired."

The report shows a clear and urgent need for additional steps to prevent impaired driving.

MADD Canada has, in its own reports, noted some positive trends, such as a reduction in overall charges and provincial administration sanctions from 2010 to 2011, as well as a decrease in the number of impairment-related crash deaths (1,074 in 2009, the latest year for which those statistics are available). Even with those slight improvements, impaired driving continues to take a devastating toll on victims, their families and Canadian society in general.

"It is very apparent, based on our own statistical and research reports, and based on the Juristat report, that additional steps need to be taken," Mr. Murie said. "When we look at international experiences and best practices in other jurisdictions, two key impaired driving countermeasures stand out as measures we need to bring to Canada: random breath testing, and per se limits and saliva testing for drug-impaired driving."

Random Breath Testing

Random breath testing is a roadside breath screening test to detect impaired drivers. It has been introduced in the great majority of comparable, developed democracies, resulting in sustained reductions in impaired driving crashes, fatalities and injuries.

It is estimated that random breath testing could reduce impaired driving crash deaths and injuries by 20%. That means we can prevent 248 deaths and more than 14,000 injuries every year.

Random breath testing was recommended by the federal government's own Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in 2009.

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Drug-Impaired Driving

MADD Canada has some serious concerns about the current system for identifying drug-impaired drivers. By all accounts, drug-impaired driving is becoming an increasingly larger part of the overall impaired driving problem. In fact, it is more prevalent than alcohol-impaired driving among some age groups. Yet, very few drug-impaired driving charges are being laid. The number of drug-impaired driving charges in 2010 was only 1.4% of the total impaired driving charges laid. Of the 65,183 Criminal Code impaired driving charges, only 915 were for drug impairment. (From MADD Canada's An Overview of Federal Drug-Impaired Driving Enforcement and Provincial Licence Suspensions in Canada )

Currently, police can demand Standard Field Sobriety Test (SFST) and Drug Recognition Evaluations (DRE) if they have grounds to suspect drug impairment in a driver. While those are the best tools available at the moment, it's obvious, based on the low rate of drug-impaired driving charges being laid, that Canada needs to establish new countermeasures to deal with drug-impaired drivers. Based on what other countries have or are doing in this area, MADD Canada is calling on the federal government to establish per se limits for drug impairment and implement saliva testing. This would mirror the blood alcohol concentration limits and breath testing currently used for alcohol-impairment. Further, provinces and territories should implement administrative sanction programs for drug-impaired driving similar to the programs in place for alcohol-impaired driving.

MADD Canada recognizes that establishing new measures to address drug-impaired driving will be complex. However, other jurisdictions, including several Australian states and European countries, are moving in this direction and Canada needs to follow their approach.

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Source: MADD Canada


Last updated on: 2013-01-28 | Link to this post