Canadian Automobile Association (CAA)

Canadian Automobile Association (CAA)

April 02, 2007 15:54 ET

CAA and TIRF Release Study on the Impact of Short-Term Licence Suspensions in Saskatchewan

Study shows more research needed on short-term suspensions to verify effectiveness

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - April 2, 2007) - The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) and the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) today released a report on the impact of short-term licence suspensions (STS) at the roadside for drinking drivers.

STS is a provincial sanction that has been used in Canada for the last 20 years as a means of immediately removing drivers with a low BAC (blood alcohol content) from the road for a period of 12 to 24 hours. The study assessed the effectiveness of STS in the province of Saskatchewan for BAC levels between 0.04 and 0.08 per cent.

"The research shows that driver fatalities with BACs at 0.08 per cent or less decreased in the years following the introduction of the new Saskatchewan law. However the numbers are very small, making it difficult to determine whether or not the changes were caused by the law," said Deanna Singhal, a co-author of the report. "We definitely need more research on this topic to determine if short-term suspensions at the roadside have a statistically significant impact on drinking and driving behaviours."

The study found that police issue short-term suspensions about as often as they lay Criminal Code charges, thereby removing twice as many drinking drivers from the road than would occur if only Criminal Code charges were available. The findings from the report also demonstrate that more information is required to determine the long-term impact of STS in Canadian provinces.

"Short-term suspensions and Criminal Code sanctions are complementary measures implemented by our federal and provincial governments that jointly fight impaired driving," said Maureen Murray from CAA Saskatchewan. "Under the short-term suspension law, police officers issue approximately the same number of short-term suspensions as Criminal Code impaired driving charges, allowing them to remove larger numbers of drinking drivers from the road."

The study was commissioned by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAA FTS) and is available online at and at

About the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA)

CAA is a federation of 9 automobile clubs serving over 5 million members through 148 offices across Canada. CAA provides a wide range of member services and works to improve travelling and motoring conditions at home and around the world.

About the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF)

Established in 1964, TIRF's mission is to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries. As a national, independent, charitable road safety institute - TIRF designs, promotes, and implements effective programs and policies, based on sound research. TIRF is a registered charity and depends on grants, contracts, and donations to provide services for the public.

Short-Term Licence Suspensions for Drinking Drivers

Report Fact Sheet

The Problem

- In 2004, 815 Canadians died in crashes involving alcohol.

- Despite substantial decreases during the 1990's in crashes and fatalities involving drinking drivers, recent progress has been limited.

- In the Traffic Injury Research Foundation's 2006 Road Safety Monitor, more than one in six Canadians reported having driven at least once in the past 30 days within 2 hours of having consumed any amount of alcohol.

- 7.7 per cent of survey respondents - representing an estimated
1.7 million Canadians - reported having driven when they thought
they were over the legal BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) limit
at least once in the past year.

- Canadians see drinking and driving at a major social problem and traffic safety problem, according to the 2006 Road Safety Monitor.

Purpose of Current Study

- To evaluate the effectiveness of short-term suspensions at the roadside for drinking drivers with BACs above 0.04 per cent but below 0.08 per cent, implemented in Saskatchewan on August 1, 1996. Similar laws are in place throughout Canada. Specifically, the study:

- Evaluated the general deterrence impact and specific deterrence
impact of the Saskatchewan law

- Characterized drivers who had been issued short-term suspensions

- Surveyed police officers about their use of and attitudes toward
the use of short-term suspensions at the roadside


General deterrence: Is the short-term suspension law associated with overall decreases in drinking and driving?

- The number of fatally injured drivers in Saskatchewan with BACs between 0.04 per cent and 0.08 per cent decreased after the introduction short-term suspensions; however, this decrease could have been associated with a pre-existing trend and could not be attributed to the short-term suspensions.

Specific deterrence: Does receiving a short-term suspension reduce a person's propensity to drive after drinking in the future?

- Of Saskatchewan drivers who received a short-term suspension during the first two years of the law, three of every four of those who had not been convicted previously of impaired driving remained free of drinking-driving offences during the 5+ year follow-up period. This suggests that there may have been some specific deterrence for these drivers. Additionally, their rate of subsequent Criminal Code impaired driving offences was lower than that of Saskatchewan drivers who received a Criminal Code impaired driving charge.

- Of those who had been convicted of impaired driving previously and received a short-term suspension during the first two years of the short-term suspension law, 100 per cent received a subsequent short-term suspension and/or impaired driving charge during the follow-up period. This suggests that short-term suspensions have no specific deterrence impact for drivers with prior impaired driving convictions.

Characteristics of drivers issued short-term suspensions

- Surveys of drivers showed that those receiving short-term suspensions and those convicted of impaired driving represented distinctly different groups. Drivers receiving short-term suspensions reported drinking more frequently than drivers receiving impaired driving charges; however they also reported consuming fewer drinks on occasions when they drink, relative to those charged with impaired driving. They were also found to have fewer alcohol-related problems than drivers charged with impaired driving.

Police attitudes about and use of short-term suspensions

- Officers issued short-term suspensions and Criminal Code impaired driving charges in similar numbers.

- Officers indicated they sometimes used discretion in issuing short-term suspensions when impaired driving charges may have been warranted, particularly in cases when there may have been insufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges.


More research on the use of short-term suspensions at the roadside is needed to determine if these suspensions have a statistically significant impact on drinking and driving.

This AAA Foundation-sponsored study was conducted by the Douglas J. Beirness, Ph.D. and Deanna Singhal of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Dr. Beirness is now with Beirness and Associates, Inc.

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