December 21, 2007

Poll suggests progress has halted on Canada’s drinking and driving problem

Ottawa, Ontario – A new poll conducted by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) suggests that progress in reducing Canada’s drinking and driving problem has come to a halt.

“We’re no longer seeing a pattern of declines in drinking and driving behaviour,” said Ward Vanlaar, research scientist for TIRF. “This is very similar to what’s occurring in other countries.”

Indicators used in the poll showed that the percentage of Canadians who drove over the legal limit climbed to 8.2 per cent, up from 5.6 per cent in 2004. Vanlaar suspects several factors are responsible for the halted progress, but he pinpoints repeat drinking drivers as a major contributor.

“Repeat drinking drivers were responsible for 6.6 million drunk-driving trips in Canada last year,” Vanlaar said. “That adds up to about 90 per cent of all drunk-driving activity. Clearly, this group isn’t getting the message.”

Vanlaar also said he suspects a lack of concern about the problem may be stifling progress. “Not surprisingly, those who were most likely to drive while over the legal limit were the least concerned about drinking and driving,” he said.

The poll found that when compared to sober motorists, drinking drivers were more typically male, and had more traffic tickets. Drinking drivers didn’t seem to understand that drinking and driving substantially increases the risk of a collision. The poll also found that 80 per cent of Canadians surveyed favoured physical coordination tests for suspected drinking drivers, while 70 per cent wanted to see more police spot checks, and 80 per cent supported the use of mandatory ignition interlocks and immediate vehicle impoundment for drinking drivers.

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