June 24th, 2024

Ground being lost in drunk-driving fatalities

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on December 24, 2022.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

The Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) has released a fact sheet that examines current beliefs and practices related to drinking and driving in Canada, and considers them in the context of recent trends in alcohol-related fatal crashes.

The fact sheet called Road Safety Monitor 2022: Drinking & Driving in Canada, according to a news release, showcases data from TIRF’s national fatality database, where its indicated that the percentage of persons killed in a crash involving a drinking driver has remained below 30 per cent since 2012.

The release states that this percentage has in fact, dropped to a new low of nearly 25 per cent in 2018. However, the most current fatality data for 2020 revealed an increase to 27.2 per cent, with 447 Canadians killed in road crashes involving a drinking driver.

The release states that while the good news is the decrease in absolute numbers of persons killed in these preventable crashes, the rising proportion of fatalities suggests ground has been lost.

“This is troubling news when considered in light of new 2022 RSM (Road Safety Monitor) poll results showing an increase in self-reported drinking and driving,” said Ward Vanlaar, TIRF COO in the release.

He said that for more than a decade, there has been a correlation between TIRF’s RSM and Fatality Database showing an increase in the proportion of drivers admitting to driving while they thought they were over the legal limit is often followed by an increase in alcohol-related crashes.

The release states that the latest RSM poll, an annual public opinion poll developed and conducted by TIRF with a total of 1,788 Canadians who completed the poll in September of 2022, revealed one in 10 respondents in 2022 admitted they had driven when they thought they were over the legal limit in the past 12 months.

“The poll showed that despite concerted efforts to combat drinking and driving, in recent years the proportion of Canadians who reported driving when they believed themselves to be over the legal limit has increased. This may be due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic,” points out Craig Lyon, TIRF Director of Road Safety Engineering in the release.

He said this rising self-reported trend suggests the number of alcohol-related fatalities may also increase. In light of the devastating consequences of driving after drinking, we can agree that even one life lost due to impaired driving is too many, particularly when these collisions are entirely preventable.

The release states that looking forward, it is critical to carefully target prevention messages to reach those choosing to drink before driving, and an important consideration is where those people choose to drink and with whom they are drinking.

The release shows that regarding where and with whom these drinking drivers consume alcohol before driving, particularly those who believed themselves to be over the legal limit, has changed from previous years. With over one-third reporting drinking at home in 2022, which is a significant increase compared to about one-fifth from 2017 to 2019.

While in 2020 and 2021 there was an increasing trend for people to be drinking alone, likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this shifted in 2022 with results showing most people reported drinking with close friends or acquaintances. Despite strict physical distancing measures not being actively enforced in 2022, the shift to drinking at home remains, according to the release.

The fact sheet can be accessed at Road Safety Monitor 2022: Drinking & Driving in Canada

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