SOURCE: MADD Canada

MADD Canada

September 30, 2015 09:39 ET

Deadly Crash Highlights Need for Effective Federal Impaired Driving Laws

OAKVILLE, ON--(Marketwired - September 30, 2015) - MADD Canada is calling on Canada's federal leaders to introduce long-overdue impaired driving amendments, in the wake of a tragic, deadly crash in Vaughan, Ontario on September 27 which claimed the lives of three children and their grandfather.

"These devastating, heartbreaking tragedies reinforce the failure of successive federal governments to implement measures which research has proven will significantly reduce impaired driving deaths and injuries," said MADD Canada Chief Executive Officer Andrew Murie. "The persistence of impaired driving is not a problem that is unique to Canada. However, in contrast to Canada, most comparable countries have lowered their permissible blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) limit to .05% and introduced mandatory breath screening of drivers."

"As a result of federal inaction, impairment-related crashes continue to be the leading criminal cause of death in Canada, claiming almost twice as many lives per year as all categories of homicide combined," said Robert Solomon, MADD Canada National Director of Legal Policy and Distinguished University Professor, Faculty of Law, Western University.

In 2010, the latest year for which national statistics are available, impairment-related crashes were estimated to have killed almost 1,100 Canadians, injured another 63,000 and generated total social costs of approximately $20.6 billion. In the end result, Canada has one of the worst impaired driving records among developed countries, despite having one of the lowest rates of per capita alcohol consumption.

"Rather than introduce effective laws, successive federal governments have focused on increased penalties, narrow prosecution issues, and long-standing loopholes," Professor Solomon said. "While these measures constitute a step in the right direction, they fall far short of the legislation that is needed to protect the Canadian public. We need to stop talking about having tough laws and start enacting effective laws."

.05% BAC
Individual studies and research reviews have established the traffic safety benefits of enacting a .05% BAC impaired driving offence. Every jurisdiction which has lowered its BAC limit has achieved major reductions in impaired driving and related crashes, deaths and injuries. Nevertheless, the federal government has repeatedly rejected calls to enact a .05% BAC impaired driving offence.

Mandatory Breath Screening
Although there are tens of thousands of impaired drivers on Canadian roads each day, few come to police attention. Surveys and criminal justice statistics indicate that, on average, a person can drive impaired once a week for more than three years before being charged with an impaired driving offence, and for more than six years before being convicted. In the 1980s and 90s, similar problems prompted most developed democracies to implement comprehensive mandatory breath screening. Research indicates that comprehensive mandatory screening programs increase the perceived and actual rates of apprehension, and result in dramatic and sustained reductions in impaired driving deaths and injuries. Indeed, mandatory breath screening is generally acknowledged to be the single most cost-effective impaired driving countermeasure. Despite its proven effectiveness and the unanimous recommendation of a House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, the current federal government, like its predecessors, has shown little interest in enacting this measure.

The overwhelming weight of scientific evidence and international practice may eventually convince the federal government to enact these two measures. Unfortunately, in the interim, hundreds of Canadians will be killed and tens of thousands will be injured each year in preventable impaired driving crashes. This is simply too heavy a price to pay for ineffectual impaired driving laws.

"How many more Canadians will have to die? How many families will have to be devastated? It is time for our federal leaders to take action to address the impaired driving problem," said Mr. Murie.

To learn more about the impact of mandatory screening and a .05% BAC Criminal Code limit, please see "Federal Impaired Driving Policy: Moving Beyond Half Measures", Canadian Public Policy, March 2014 http://madd.ca/media/docs/moving-beyond-half-measures.pdf

Contact Information

  • For more information, please contact:

    Andrew Murie
    MADD Canada
    Chief Executive Officer
    1-800-665-6233 ext. 224
    amurie@madd.ca

    Robert Solomon
    MADD Canada
    National Director of Legal Policy
    Distinguished University Professor, Faculty of Law, Western University
    519-661-3603

    Angeliki Souranis
    MADD Canada
    National President
    514-515-6233
    asouranis@madd.ca