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Impaired Driving

Driving impaired greatly increases the risk of a serious accident. It's why driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a crime under the Criminal Code of Canada. Each and every time a person chooses to get behind the wheel while impaired, they're not only risking their own life, but the lives of others.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada, an average of four people are killed each day in crashes involving alcohol and/or drugs. In fact, crashes involving impaired driving are the leading criminal cause of death in Canada. In the United States, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention says that 28 people die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver every day in the U.S. This works out to one death every 51 minutes.

BAC, or Blood Alcohol Concentration, is the amount of alcohol in your blood. If your BAC is 0.05 per cent, that means you have 50 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. Each drink consumed within a certain time frame increases your BAC.

In Canada, the Criminal Code BAC limit is 0.08 per cent. At this level, Criminal Code impaired driving charges can be laid. But just about every province and territory in Canada has administrative laws for drivers whose BACs are 0.05 per cent and over. According to author Christine Van Tuyl in the book Drunk Driving, it takes approximately six hours after drinking for the body to completely eliminate alcohol from its system with a BAC level of 0.08 per cent.

In addition to possible injury or loss of life, the consequences of impaired driving includes loss of licence, mandatory education, hefty fines, jail time and/or a criminal record. The RCMP has made impaired driving an operational priority. Through a series of nationally co-ordinated impaired driving enforcement days, awareness campaigns and partner engagement, the RCMP continues to work to stop alcohol- and drug- impaired drivers.

Many factors can affect your blood alcohol level:

  • how fast you drink
  • whether you're male or female
  • your body weight and/or the amount of food in your stomach

Statistics Canada reports the impaired driving rate in 2015 was 65 per cent lower than the rate 1986 (577 incidents per 100,000 population) and four per cent lower than the rate observed in 2014 (210 per 100,000 population).

In contrast to alcohol-impaired driving, the number of drug-impaired driving incidents has been rising since 2009. Drug-impaired driving rose from two per cent of all impaired driving incidents in 2009 to four per cent in 2015.

According to the RCMP, driving after using drugs, including prescription drugs, is just as dangerous as drinking and driving. Drug Recognition Experts can determine if a person is under the influence of a drug and can charge that person with drug-impaired driving. Among the police-reported impaired driving incidents in 2015, nearly 3,000 involved drug-impaired driving, including seven incidents causing death and 19 causing bodily harm. The Ontario Ministry of Transportation advises asking a doctor or a pharmacist about the side effects related to driving when using prescription medication. As well, ask a doctor or pharmacist about how a prescription drug might react when mixed with alcohol.

Although there has consistently been a lower rate of impaired driving among women compared to men, impaired-driving incidents among women have increased in the past two decades, says the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF). In 2015, women accounted for one in five reported incidents of impaired driving whereas in 1986, they represented just one in 13.

A major research study prepared by TIRF observed that young people, especially those aged 20 to 34, show up most frequently in the statistics. According to the study, 16- to 19-year-olds account for 23 per cent of fatalities, 18 per cent of injuries and 11 per cent of those arrested for alcohol-related driving offences.

This article was originally posted on January 2, 2018 by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Gazette Volume 80, Number 01.
by Deidre Seiden


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