A new Road Safety Monitor (RSM) poll conducted by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) and produced in partnership with Beer Canada, State Farm and the Toyota Canada Foundation reveals that among the minority of drivers who admit to driving when they thought they were over the legal limit, 44% did so when accompanied by a life partner and/or family member and one-third (32.5%) when in the company of close friends. The public opinion poll conducted in October and November 2015 investigated Canadians’ behaviours and actions in relation to drinking and driving as well as trends.
“Since the early 2000s, the Traffic Injury Research Foundation has tracked drinking and driving behaviour among Canadians through this annual poll,” explains Dr. Ward Vanlaar, Vice President Research. “What we see is that in 2015, 4.2% of respondents admitted they had driven when they thought they were over the legal limit in the past 12 months and 16.6% reported driving after consuming any amount of alcohol in the past 30 days. When looking at trends in survey data, we can conclude that some progress has been made, but more efforts are needed.” Vanlaar continues “Similar trends are also evident in crash data. In 2012, the most recent year for which fatality data are available, 29.9% of all fatalities died in traffic crashes involving a drinking driver, which is down from 37.2% in 1995.”
While there is no easy fix to the problem of drinking and driving, the results of the study suggest that educating the public about risks associated with this dangerous behaviour can help. “It appears that there is an opportunity to further reduce the problem by focusing on the fact that many Canadians who drive after drinking do their drinking with family or close friends,” explains Vanlaar. “Educating the public about how they can learn to say no to their loved ones when they are about to drive after drinking can be a part of the solution.” Respondents who admitted to driving when they thought they were over the legal limit were also asked where they did most of their drinking. Almost one-third (32.3%) of these respondents reported doing this at the home of a friend or relative, further emphasizing the importance of a targeted approach.
When looking at levels of concern about drinking and driving compared to other road safety issues, the 2015 survey results revealed that drinking drivers were rated as a very or extremely serious problem by 75.2% of Canadians. This is slightly higher than 73.1% in 2014 but significantly lower than the 88.0% observed in 2006. Despite this decline, a clear majority of Canadians continue to express high levels of concern about drinking and driving, which is important because being concerned can motivate people to act and do something about the problem.
Vanlaar concludes “The data from this survey about the magnitude of the problem and the level of concern about it suggest that continued efforts are needed to address the issue of drinking and driving in Canada. One way to accomplish this is to educate people how they can help protect their loved ones.”
- In 2012, the most recent year for which data are available, 563 Canadians were killed in a traffic crash involving a drinking driver, excluding British Columbia. In 1995 this number was 1,094 and in 2000 this number was 731.
- Almost half of respondents (44%) who admitted to driving when they thought they were over the legal limit reported doing most of their drinking in the company of a life partner and/or family member and one-third (32.5%) in the company of close friends.
- In 2014, 75.2% of Canadians rated the issue of drinking and driving as a priority concern; this is slightly higher than 73.1% in 2014 but significantly lower than the 88.0% observed in 2006.
- When asked about driving when they thought they were over the legal limit in the past 12 months, 4.2% of Canadians admitted to doing this in 2015, down from 6.6% reported in 2014 but still higher than 3.6% in 2012, which was the lowest percentage it has been since 1998.
- When looking at trends, it can be concluded that some progress has been made, but more efforts are needed to further reduce the burden of drinking and driving in Canada.
These results are based on the RSM, an annual public opinion poll developed and conducted by TIRF. A total of 1,204 Canadians completed the poll in October and November of 2015. Results can be considered accurate within plus or minus 2.8%, 19 times out of 20. The majority of the questions were answered using a scale from one to six where six indicated high agreement, concern, or support and one indicated low agreement, concern or support. Similar to 2014, all of the respondents completed the survey online.
Established in 1964, TIRF’s mission is to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries. As a national, independent, charitable road safety research institute, TIRF designs, promotes, and implements effective programs and policies, based on sound research.