June 24th, 2024

Young men more likely to drive impaired: MADD


By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on October 29, 2022.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

Canadian men, particularly younger men, believe they’re invincible when it comes to impaired driving, a national survey suggests.

The Ipsos survey, conducted in May and June on behalf of MADD Canada, indicates that men between the age of 18 and 34 are more likely to drive than the average Canadian after consuming alcohol, cannabis or other drugs. Although the survey does not reveal significant increases or decreases in the overall rate of driving after consumption, it did show a continued trend of elevated rates among young men, which is consistent with MADD Canada statistics that show the rate of road fatalities caused by intoxicants is also higher among young men.

The survey asked 3,000 Canadians between the legal driving age and the age of 70 about their consumption, and whether they drove afterward even if they believed they were impaired.

“To be clear, it is not just young males who are driving after alcohol, cannabis, or other drug use,” says Eric Dumschat, legal director for MADD Canada. “We are seeing it across all age groups. However, young males aged 18 to 34 have shown consistently higher rates of driving while they believed that they are impaired by these substances.”

The survey indicates that among the 71 per cent of drivers who used alcohol in the previous 30 days, six per cent drove at least once in the previous six months while they believed that they were impaired, and 45 per cent drove with passengers. Among young men, 17 per cent drove at least once in the previous six months while they believed that they were impaired, and 76 per cent of them drove with passengers.

Among the 30 per cent of drivers who used cannabis in the previous 30 days, 11 per cent drove at least once in the previous six months while they believed they were impaired, and 55 per cent drove with passengers. Among young males, 41 per cent had consumed cannabis in the previous 30 days, with 16 per cent of those driving at least once in the previous six months while they believed that they were impaired, and 69 per cent driving with passengers.

Among the 13 per cent of drivers who used an illicit drug, medication (prescribed or not) or other substance for recreational purposes or to get high in the past 30 days, 18 per cent drove at least once in the previous six months while they believed that they were impaired, and 58 per cent of those drove with passengers. Among young males, 22 per cent drove after consuming a drug, medication or other substance, with 24 per cent of those driving at least once in the previous six months while they believed that they were impaired, and 62 per cent driving with passengers.

Dumschat says even though impaired driving is generally regarded by all Canadians as abhorrent, some still choose to drive because they believe they are “special” and can do so safely, or because they don’t have far to drive and they’re willing to take a chance that nothing will happen. Those are misconceptions, he adds.

Although the survey results reflect impaired driving stats across Canada, Dumschat says Alberta is doing a better job of tackling the problem than other provinces.

In 2018 mandatory alcohol screening was introduced across Canada, which allows police officers to test a breath sample of drivers they lawfully stop, even without reasonable suspicion the drivers have alcohol in their body.

“Alberta uses it closest to best practices,” Dumschat points out. “Other jurisdictions are not using it as comprehensively. While most police forces we have spoken to are using it, usage varies between police forces with many leaving it up to officer discretion or only using it at checkpoints.”

Dumschat says the survey results show that driving after consuming alcohol, cannabis, or other drugs continues to be a problem among a sizable portion of Canadians and represents a major risk to themselves and other drivers.

“We need to continue to look at legislative and policy measures that will address this problem, as well as ongoing education and awareness efforts, paying particular attention to young males.”

Dumschat says young men do not react well to messages of dying or being injured or causing deaths and injuries, but rather respond better to losing privileges, such as having their car impounded or licence suspended. They also are more concerned with rising insurance rates and fines.

According to MADD Canada’s statistics, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 16 to 25 year olds, and alcohol and/or drugs are a factor in 55 per cent of those crashes. Men account for 87 per cent of the young, fatally injured drinking drivers and 89 per cent of the seriously injured drinking drivers.

Dumschat says even though impaired driving rates are lower than they once were, they are on the rise and “impaired driving is still an issue on our roads.” He says efforts to reduce impaired driving must continue, and one way would be for other provinces to follow Alberta’s example in the increased use of mandatory screening. Efforts may also be facilitated by improved technology to monitor blood-alcohol concentrations, and perhaps eventually by autonomous vehicles which could determine a driver’s impairment before the vehicle will start.

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