Ottawa, Ontario – Canadians may be changing their habits regarding driving after drinking, according to a new poll by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF).

Of those polled, 19 per cent admitted to driving after consuming any amount of alcohol in the past 30 days in 2009. This figure has consistently increased in 2005, and further suggests a stable upward trend in the number of people who admit to this behaviour.

However, researchers were also able to identify a decrease in the number of Canadians who drove when they thought they were over the legal limit in 2008 and 2009, when compared to those who admitted to the same behaviour in 2007. About 5.6 per cent of Canadians admitted to driving when they thought they were over the legal limit in the past 12 months. This is a slight increase compared to 5.2 per cent in 2008, but confirms the considerable drop from 8.2 per cent in 2007.

“In the 2008 Road Safety Monitor on drinking and driving, it was suggested that the drop in 2008 may be partly due to the recent passage of Bill C-2 and the media attention the amendment had received,” said Ward Vanlaar, TIRF research scientist. “In light of this possible explanation, a small increase from 2008 to 2009 is not surprising, given that the effect of legislation can dissipate over time after its introduction.”

According to official statistics, 863 Canadians were killed in 2007 in traffic crashes involving a drinking driver. This represents an increase since 2004. However, there have been steady declines, from 1,296 in 1995, to 815 in 2004.

One theory is that these results, in combination with the decreased number of fatalities, suggests that the number of people who are drinking and driving at higher levels of alcohol consumption is decreasing. The researchers said that further monitoring will help provide a better understanding of the possible trend.

The poll also revealed that drinking and driving continues to be ranked by the public as the most important concern of all road safety issues.

Of  those polled, 5.1 per cent, or 1.7 million people, admitted to riding with a drinking driver in the last month. Some 6.6 per cent, or 2.2 million people, indicated that they had been a passenger in a motor vehicle on two or more occasions driven by someone who had been drinking.

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