Ottawa, Ontario – A new poll by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) has found that a significant number of Canadians are personally affected by drinking and driving crashes, making it a cause for concern. The public opinion poll, conducted in September, investigated how many Canadians had a family member or close friend involved in a drinking and driving crash.

The results found that an estimated 7.5 million Canadians report knowing a family member or close friend who has been the victim of such a collision, while an estimated 5.4 million Canadians said that they know a family member or friend who caused a collision by driving after drinking.

“It’s not surprising that about 80 per cent of the public continues to be very or extremely concerned about drinking and driving,” said Ward Vanlaar, research scientist at TIRF. “Each year, about one-third of all road fatalities are alcohol-related, and this clearly impacts a significant number of Canadians.”

According to official statistics, 907 Canadians were killed in 2006 in traffic crashes involving a drinking driver, an increase since 2005.

The poll also revealed that drinking and driving continued to be reported as the most important concern of all road safety issues by those surveyed; however, Vanlaar said that this level of concern is not translating into changes in behaviour for some Canadians, pointing to an increase in the number of Canadians who admit to driving after consuming alcohol. Approximately 18 per cent of Canadians polled admitted to driving after consuming any amount of alcohol in the past 30 days in 2008. The figure has increased from reported levels in 2006, which TIRF said suggests that progress in the fight against drinking and driving has halted.

About 5.2 per cent of Canadians admitted to driving when they thought they were over the legal limited in the past 12 months, a drop from 8.2 per 2007, which TIRF said may be partly due to the recent passage of Bill C-2, designed to strengthen drunk driving legislation. “Although such a large decline may be encouraging, it is too soon to tell whether the percentage of drivers who admit to driving when they thought they were over the legal limit in the past year is truly declining or not.”

The poll also found that 6.2 per cent of those surveyed said they had been a passenger in a vehicle driven by someone who had been drinking on one occasion, while 6.4 per cent had been a passenger on two such occasions.

As well, 36.6 per cent of those who drove when they thought they were over the legal limit reported doing most of their drinking at the home of a friend or relative; approximately 25.4 per cent reported doing most of their drinking in a bar, while 18.1 per cent drank in their own home, and 16.4 per cent in a restaurant. Vanlaar said that this means that at least 80 per cent of those who drink and drive are in the midst of friends or family. “Those who know someone who is about to drink and drive are in a position to prevent the people they care about from getting behind the wheel after drinking,” he said. “They can tell the driver they are not safe to drive, and refuse to be a passenger.”

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