Legislative Background: reforms to the Transportation Provisions of the Criminal Code (Bill C-46)

Annex 1 – Alcohol and drug-impaired driving statistics

Alcohol-impaired driving

Alcohol-impaired driving rates have been declining steadily since 1986 (when data was first collected).

  • In 2015, police recorded 72,039 impaired driving incidents (drugs and alcohol); a decrease of 4% from 2014 and 65% lower than 1986;
  • In 2013, 31% of all fatally injured drivers in Canada (excluding BC) had been drinking and 76.6% of these fatally injured drinking drivers had BACs exceeding the criminal legal limit of 80;
  • In 2015, young adults between the ages of 20 to 24 had the highest impaired driving rates; but the largest decline since 2009 has also been observed for this age group;
  • Amongst young people in Ontario in 2015, approximately 5% of Grades 10—12 students reported driving within an hour of using alcohol in the past year;
  • Police-reported incident data shows that alcohol-impaired driving tends to peak on weekends between 11 pm and 4 am.

Prosecuting alcohol-impaired driving

  • Police Criminal Code impaired driving charges have decreased in recent years which could be explained by an increase in provincial administrative measures, such as licence suspension and vehicle seizure;
  • In 1998, 89% of impaired driving incidents were cleared by a charge. In 2015, only 71% of incidents were cleared by a criminal charge;
  • The majority of people charged with impaired driving (drug or alcohol) are male, but the proportion of females has increased from 8% in 1986 to 20% in 2015;
  • In 2015, 81% of cases where alcohol-impaired driving was the primary offence resulted in a guilty finding;
  • The median length of time for an alcohol-impaired driving trial was 92 days in 2000/01. It rose sharply, primarily due to the “two beer defence”, and was 146 days in 2010/11. With the enactment of restrictions on the two beer defence in 2008, and particularly the Supreme Court decision that the two beer defence was insufficient by itself to raise a reasonable doubt about BAC, the median time required has declined to 127 days in 2014/15 – similar to the median for other criminal trials (121 days).

Drug-impaired driving

  • Nearly 3,000 of the total impaired driving incidents recorded by police in 2015 (72,039) were related to drugs (4%); this number has increased steadily since 2009 (when data was first collected);
  • In one roadside study, THC was the most common impairing drug (about half of drug-impaired driving incidents) found in drivers (63% of drug-positive cases), followed by cocaine;
  • In 2013, 82.9% of fatally-injured drivers in Canada (excluding BC) were tested for drugs; of these, 44% tested positive for some drug (caution is urged as there may be jurisdictional differences in the tests and the results are not indicative of impairment in each of these deceased drivers);
  • Amongst young people in Ontario, in 2015 approximately 10% of Grades 10—12 students reported driving within an hour of using cannabis during the past year;
  • Prevalence studies indicate that drug-impaired driving is not significantly more prevalent on weekend nights but rather it tends to spread across all weekdays and across all periods in a 24 hour day.

Prosecuting drug-impaired driving

  • Drug-driving trials take longer than alcohol-impaired driving trials; 28% of drug-impaired driving incidents required more than 30 days in 2015. In comparison, only 16% of alcohol-impaired driving incidents took more than 30 days;
  • 61% of drug-impaired driving cases resulted in a guilty verdict. Drug-impaired driving charges were more likely to be withdrawn, dismissed or discharged by the Crown (25%) than alcohol-impaired driving charges (12%);
  • The median length of time for a drug-impaired driving trial between 2010-2011 to 2014-2015 was 227 days – almost twice as long as for an alcohol-impaired trial.

References:

  • Beirness and Beasley. (2011). Alcohol and Drug Use Among Drivers: British Columbia Roadside Surveys 2010. Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse.
  • Boak, A, Hamilton, H, Adlaf, E and Mann, R. (2015). Drug Use Among Ontario Students: 1977‑2015. Research Document Series No. 41. Centre for
  • Addiction and Mental Health.
  • Brown, S, Vanlaar, W.G.M. and Robertson, R.D (2017). Alcohol and Drug-Crash Problem in Canada report 2013. Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators.
  • Brown, S, Hing, M, Vanlaar, W.G.M. and Robertson, R.D. (2016). Road Safety Monitor 2016: Drinking and Driving in Canada. Traffic Injury Research Foundation.
  • Perreault, S. (2016). Juristat Impaired Driving in Canada, 2015. Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.
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