VANCOUVER - Two years after B.C. introduced Canada's toughest provincial impaired driving law, an estimated 104 lives have been saved and impaired driving has dropped significantly.
At an event today to mark the National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims and Mothers Against Drunk Driving's 25th annual Project Red Ribbon, Justice Minister and Attorney General Shirley Bond announced preliminary road-crash fatality data for the two years ending Sept. 30, 2012, and the results of a recent driver impairment survey.
Since the September 2010 launch of the immediate roadside prohibition (IRP) program, the number of alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths has decreased to an average of 62 a year. This represents a 46 per cent decrease from the average of 114 in each of the previous five years. This success well exceeds government's goal, set in 2010 in honour of impaired driving victim Alexa Middelaer, to reduce alcohol-impaired driving fatalities by 35 per cent by the end of 2013.
Government also released today an independently conducted survey of drivers in Abbotsford, Kelowna, Prince George, Saanich and Vancouver. It took place in June 2010 and June 2012 as part of an evaluation of the impact of B.C.'s IRP legislation. The 2012 Roadside Alcohol and Drug Survey found 44 per cent fewer drivers had a blood-alcohol content (BAC) 0.05 per cent and over - and nearly 60 per cent fewer drivers were at or over the Criminal Code threshold of 0.08 per cent. The results also showed that levels of drinking and driving were the lowest recorded in the history of seven similar surveys conducted since 1995.
By questioning voluntarily participating drivers, the 2012 survey revealed strong awareness of, support for and concern about facing B.C.'s IRP sanctions:
- More than 82 per cent of drivers said they were aware of the sanctions.
- 90 per cent felt the legislation would make roads safer.
- 30 per cent said the new law prompted a change in their behaviour.
- Asked to rate how inconvenient they thought certain immediate sanctions were, more than two-thirds of respondents saw B.C.'s lengthy driving prohibitions and vehicle impoundment for impaired driving as a "complete inconvenience."
- 53 per cent said they had been stopped in a police alcohol check in the last two years - and nearly half thought there was a good likelihood of being stopped if they drove after consuming too much alcohol.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General Shirley Bond -
"It's encouraging to note that, as you drive home late at night, the car coming toward you is far less likely to be piloted by an impaired driver than at any time in recent years. More people are getting the message that it's up to each of us to further road safety, by driving sober and following the rules of the road - and it's paying off by saving lives."
"Today we honour the memory of road crash victims, and reaffirm our government's commitment to continue to examine more ways to encourage responsible, safe driving."
Chief Const. Peter Lepine, president of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police -
"From an enforcement standpoint, it's clear that many people are planning ahead and avoiding driving after drinking - while those who don't are facing the full consequences under the law. Saving lives and preventing injuries is our bottom line, and we will continue to enforce IRPs to build on the clear and dramatic results to date."
Andy Murie, chief executive officer, MADD Canada -
"When B.C. introduced its IRP sanctions in 2010, we said we believed that these major, escalating penalties and mandatory remedial programs would better support both deterrence and enforcement, save lives and prevent hundreds of injuries each year. The prevalence survey supports that belief. B.C. has set a new benchmark in reducing impaired driving and the related death toll on its roads."
- In the five years before the IRP program, alcohol-related crashes claimed an average of 114 lives each year. In the first year of the IRP program, the fatality total was 66, representing 48 lives saved. In the second year, the preliminary total is 58, representing 56 lives saved.
- In B.C., drivers impaired by alcohol face immediate penalties that may take away their vehicle, their licence, and cost them anywhere from $600 to more than $4,000 in administrative penalties and remedial program costs.
- Project Red Ribbon is MADD Canada's longest-running public awareness campaign. The ribbon - displayed on lapels, vehicles, key rings and elsewhere - reminds Canadians to drive sober through the holiday season and the year. It also serves as a tribute to those killed and injured in impaired driving crashes.
The 2012 Roadside Alcohol and Drug Survey is online at: www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/osmv/data/index.htm
MADD Canada's Project Red Ribbon: www.madd.ca/madd2/en/services/awareness_campaigns_red_ribbon.html
National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims:
A backgrounder follows.
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Justice
Impairment survey: drivers aware, cautious of sanctions
The 2012 Roadside Alcohol and Drug Survey involved more than 2,500 vehicles in five communities throughout B.C., collecting voluntary breath and mouth-fluid samples, and questioning participants about their awareness of and perspectives on B.C.'s approach to impaired driving.
- Of participating drivers whose breath tested positive for alcohol this year, two-thirds were below the "warn" threshold of 0.05 per cent BAC.
- In Vancouver and Saanich, the percentage of drivers with a BAC at or above the Criminal Code threshold of 0.08 per cent fell by 75 per cent between 2010 and 2012.
- Only Vancouver and Saanich have been involved in all seven surveys conducted since 1995. In 2012, less than one-third as many surveyed drivers in these cities had a BAC at or above 0.05 per cent, compared to 1995 (1.6 per cent in 2012 versus 5.2 per cent in 1995).
- Men and women were equally likely to be aware of B.C.'s IRP law. In every city, at least 79 per cent of respondents were aware of the IRP law, with the highest awareness - 89 per cent - in Kelowna.
- Drivers aged 25 to 54 were most likely to have changed their behaviour as a result of the legislation, while those under 25 were most likely to say they never drink and drive.
- The survey found no drivers aged 16 to 18 who had been drinking, and noted, "This may be considered to be a benefit of the graduated licensing program... that restricts drivers with a 'Learner' or 'Novice' (i.e., 'L' or 'N') licence to a zero BAC."
- Responses to the survey suggest far fewer drivers who had consumed alcohol were coming from drinking establishments than in 2010. Notably, in 2012, only 14.9 per cent of drivers who had consumed alcohol were coming from a bar, pub or nightclub, compared to 34.6 per cent in 2010.
- Drinking and driving was least prevalent on Saturday nights. Survey nights ran from Wednesday to Saturday.
- The conduct of the survey itself supported road safety. All participants whose breath sample contained 0.05 per cent BAC or higher, who appeared intoxicated, or who indicated they held a learner or novice licence and had any BAC, were provided with a safe ride home.
- The survey report's authors suggest that drivers who refused to participate in the voluntary survey were not necessarily drinking drivers. They note that analysis of such factors as vehicle type and the time of the night "suggests that those who refuse to participate share factors that more closely resemble non-drinking drivers than drinking drivers."
- The prevalence of drug use by drivers was essentially unchanged from 2010. Although there is no instrument-based roadside test for drug impairment in Canada, nearly 1,500 police officers throughout B.C. are trained to detect drug impairment. Suspected drug-impaired drivers can be required to submit to a blood test and a complete drug recognition evaluation by a specially trained drug recognition expert - the results of which may be used to support criminal charges.
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Justice