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How many people are killed or injured in road crashes each year?

There were 2,209 people killed and 172,883 people injured in road crashes in Canada during 2009 (the most recent year for which official statistics are available).

Source: Transport Canada - 2009 Canadian Motor Vehicle Traffic Collision Statistics


What is the annual estimated cost of road crashes in Canada?

The economic and social consequences of road crashes are profound -- estimated to be $25 billion a year. This figure includes not only the direct and indirect costs, but also the estimated costs of pain and suffering.


How many people are killed in alcohol-related crashes each year?

TIRF estimates in 2009 (the most recent year for which official statistics are available), 884 people died in alcohol-related crashes in Canada.

Source: The Alcohol-Crash Problem in Canada: 2009


Are Canadians concerned about the problem of drinking and driving?

Yes. More than eighty percent (80.9%) say they are very concerned or are extremely concerned about the problem.

Source: The Road Safety Monitor 2011: Drinking and Driving in Canada


Is the problem of drinking and driving getting worse or better in Canada?

Over the period 1990-2009, the percentage of fatally injured drivers who had been drinking prior to a collision generally declined from a peak of 48% in 1991-92 to a low of about 33% in 1999. It increased to about 38% in 2009, the most recent year for which official statistics are available. With respect to collisions resulting in serious injuries, it is estimated that about 19% of drivers were in serious injury collisions that involved alcohol in 2009, compared to 21% in 1995.

Source: Mayhew, DR, Brown, SW, and Simpson, HM 2011. The Alcohol-Crash Problem in Canada: 2009


What does BAC mean?

This is an abbreviation for Blood Alcohol Concentration and refers to the weight of alcohol (expressed in milligrams) in a standard volume of blood (usually 100 millilitres). For example, it is an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada to operate a motor vehicle with a BAC that exceeds 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.

Because the amount of alcohol in the breath is directly proportional to the amount of alcohol in the blood, BAC is readily (and most often) measured by means of a breath test - i.e., using a "breathalyzer".


What is the legal BAC limit in Canada?

The national legal limit is 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. It is an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada to have care or control of a motor vehicle if your BAC exceeds this limit, which can be expressed as .08, or .08%, but usually is referred to as 80mg%.


Can you be charged with impaired driving under the Criminal Code if a police officer suspects you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs?

Yes. If the police officer determines that your ability to operate a vehicle is impaired, you can be charged with impaired driving. This is true even if there is inconclusive evidence of drug use, or if you have a BAC below the legal limit.


Can I be charged with impaired driving if I'm on my own property?

Yes. The Criminal Code of Canada applies not only to public roads and highways but to private property as well.


Do any provinces have a BAC limit lower than 80mg%?

Yes. All provinces, except Quebec, have legislation that allows a police officer to suspend a driver's licence immediately for a short period of time (12 or 24 hours), if the driver has a BAC of 50mg% or greater (40mg% in Saskatchewan). However, this legislation is in the provincial highway traffic act, not the Criminal Code.


What are the penalties for drinking and driving in Canada?

The Criminal Code of Canada specifies the sanctions for an impaired driving conviction: these are summarized in the table below.

Each of the provinces also applies licence suspensions that may exceed the Federal prohibition from driving which is mandatory for a conviction under the Criminal Code.

Criminal Code Penalties for Impaired Driving Offences Effective June 30, 2000
OFFENCE PENALTIES
Prohibition from
Driving
Fine Jail
. Driving While
   Impaired
. BAC Over 80 mg%
. Refuse to
   Provide Sample

1st
Offence

Summary

12* to 36 months

$600 to $2,000

0 to 6 months
Indictment 12* to 36 months

$600+ (no limit) 0 to 5 years
2nd
Offence
Summary 24 to 60 months up to $2,000 14 days to 6 months
Indictment 24 to 60 months

no maximum 14 days to 5 years
3rd+ Offence Summary  36 months to life up to $2,000 90 days to 6 months
Indictment 36 months to life

no maximum 90 days to 5 years
. Impaired Driving
  Causing Bodily Harm


Indictment up to 10 years no maximum up to 10 years
. Impaired Driving
  Causing Death

Indictment up to 10 years no maximum maximum life imprisonment
* Reducible to a minimum 3-month prohibition if an ignition interlock is installed
  (only where the program is available).

What is ALS?

Administrative Licence Suspension (also known as administrative licence revocation) is the temporary and almost immediate removal of the licence, if the driver refuses to provide a breath sample for an alcohol test, or if the test shows they have a BAC in excess of 80 mg%.  This sanction is applied independent of a Criminal Code conviction, which also carries with it prohibitions from driving.

Source: Beirness et al., 1997. Evaluation of the administrative licence suspension and vehicle impoundment programs in Manitoba. Ottawa, Transport Canada.


Which provinces and territories in Canada have ALS?

As of December 2005, all provinces and territories in Canada have ALS with the exception of New Brunswick and Nunavut.

Source: STRID 2010 Monitoring Report: Progress in 2004-2005. Table 2-2b.


What is vehicle impoundment?

If a police officer determines that a driver is operating a motor vehicle while their licence is suspended, the officer can seize the vehicle and have it towed to a secure compound, where it is held for a minimum of 30 days before the owner can claim it.

Source: Beirness et al., 1997. Evaluation of the administrative licence suspension and vehicle impoundment programs in Manitoba. Ottawa, Transport Canada.


Which jurisdictions in Canada have vehicle impoundment?

As of December 2007, all jurisdictions in Canada have various forms of vehicle impoundment with the exception of New Brunswick and Nunavut.

Source: STRID 2010 Monitoring Report: Progress in 2005-2006. Table 2-5


What is an alcohol ignition interlock and how does it work?

An alcohol ignition interlock is a breath test device linked to the vehicle's ignition to prevent it from being started by someone who has had too much to drink. To start the vehicle the driver must provide a breath sample that shows they have a BAC below a pre-set value (usually 40 mg% or lower).


Which jurisdictions in Canada have alcohol ignition interlock programs?

British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland & Labrador, and the Yukon operate ignition interlock programs for persons convicted of impaired driving.


At what time of year do most alcohol-related crashes occur?

Contrary to popular opinion most alcohol-related crashes do not occur during the winter months (December, January, February).  The greatest number of alcohol-related crashes occur during the summer months (June, July, August).


How significant is the drugs and driving problem?

Determining the presence of and the causal role of drugs in road crashes is considerably more difficult than it is for alcohol. As a result, accurate statistics about the magnitude of the drugs and driving problem are not available. It is known, however, that a wide range of drugs (illicit as well as prescription and even some over-the-counter drugs) have impairing effects on driving-related skills. It is also known that many of these drugs are found in drivers involved in serious road crashes -- as many as 25% of fatally injured drivers have been found to be positive for some psychoactive substance.

In Canada, a national opinion poll found some 2.4% per cent (approximately 520,000) drivers had used marijuana or hashish in the past 12 months and had driven within two hours of using either substance.

Source: Simpson, H.M. and Vingilis, E. Epidemiology and special population surveys. In S.D. Ferrara and R. Giorgetti (Eds.) Methodology in man-machine interaction and epidemiology on drugs and traffic safety. 1992

Source: The Road Safety Monitor: Drugs and Driving


What is the legal drinking age in Canada?

The minimum legal drinking age is 19 in all provinces and territories, except Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec, where it is 18.


How does Canada rate in terms of seat belt usage?

Canada has one of the highest rates of seat belt use in the world - the most recent 2005-2006 survey of seat belt use in Canada found that the number of vehicle occupants using seatbelts across the country was 90.8%.

Source: Source: Transport Canada - Transport Canada's survey of seat belt use in Canada 2005-2006. TP2436 E, April 2007


Has the number of crashes involving motorcycles been increasing or decreasing in Canada?

There has been a dramatic drop in the number of motorcyclists killed in Canada. In 1987, there were 358 motorcyclists killed in road crashes. In 2006, that number declined to 218 (i.e. a 39% decrease). It is worth noting, however, that the number of deaths was even lower in 1996 and 1997 (128 and 122, respectively).

Source: Transport Canada - Canadian Motor Vehicle Traffic Collision Statistics 2006.


How much more likely is a motorcyclist to be injured or killed in a road crash?

Motorcyclists are more vulnerable than occupants of a vehicle.  In a collision, a motorcyclist is four times more likely to be injured and 14 times more likely to be killed than is the occupant of a vehicle.


Has the number of crashes involving heavy trucks been increasing or decreasing in Canada?

From 1994 to 2001, the number of people killed and injured in collisions involving a heavy truck declined (by 12% and by 7%, respectively). Incidentally, so has the number of all motor vehicle deaths and injuries (by 15% and by 10% respectively). Given the similarities in these trends, it is not surprising that the contribution of heavy trucks to the death and injury toll has remained basically unchanged.

Source: DR Mayhew, HM Simpson and DJ Beirness. 2004. Heavy Trucks and Road Crashes


Why do teen drivers have the highest crash risk?

Teen drivers have the highest crash risk for two primary reasons -- inexperience and immaturity. Many young drivers are at increased risk because of deficiencies in a variety of psychomotor, perceptual, and cognitive skills. Some young drivers intentionally increase their risk of collision - they are motivated by thrill-seeking or compromised by peer pressure. Lifestyle choices and inexperience often combine to dramatically increase the crash risk of teen drivers.

Source: Mayhew and Simpson. 1999. Youth and Road Crashes: Reducing the Risks from Inexperience, Immaturity and Alcohol. Ottawa, Ontario: Traffic Injury Research Foundation.


For which age groups are road crashes the leading cause of death?

Road crashes are the leading cause of death for persons aged 10 to 24.

Source: Public Health Agency of Canada, Child Injury Division. "Leading Causes of Death and Hospitalization in Canada.


What is graduated licensing?

Graduated licensing allows beginning drivers to gain their initial experience under conditions that are less risky. This is accomplished through a multi-stage licensing program that includes an extended learners stage, during which driving is only permitted under supervision (usually for a period of six months or more), followed by an intermediate stage of unsupervised driving that is restricted to lower risk conditions -- e.g., limits on the number of passengers.

Source: Graduated Licensing: A Blueprint for North America: AF Williams, IIHS and DR Mayhew, TIRF, January 1999


Which jurisdictions in Canada have graduated driver licensing?

Twelve jurisdictions in Canada have enacted one or more elements of graduated driver licensing. The only jurisdiction that has not is Nunavut.

Source: Best Practices for Graduated Driver Licensing in Canada, HM Simpson and DR Mayhew, TIRF, 2005.


Does graduated licensing work?

Evidence of the effectiveness of graduated licensing has been growing. It has been found to reduce collisions in New Zealand, Florida, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and several U.S. states. For example, among 16-year-old drivers in Nova Scotia, there was a 24% decrease in collisions during the first full year of the program and a 37% reduction over the first three years of the program.

Source: Mayhew et al,. 1999. Impact of the Graduated Driver Licensing System in Nova Scotia. Ottawa, Ontario: Traffic Injury Research Foundation.

Source: The evolution and effectiveness of graduated licensing. Journal of Safety Research, Vol. 34, No. 1, pp. 25-34, January 2003 (HM Simpson)


Does crash risk increase for senior drivers?

Crash rates are lowest throughout middle age and then increase among senior drivers. Death rates per million miles begin increasing at ages 60-64. When drivers reach the ages of 75-79, their death rates per million miles traveled is four times greater than that of 30-59 year-olds.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Status Report. Vol. 36, No. 8, Sept. 2001.


How many crashes are caused by sleepy or fatigued drivers?

It is estimated that sleepy and/or fatigued drivers are responsible for 4% of fatal crashes and about 20% of non-fatal crashes.

In Canada, fatigue is listed as a causal or contributing factor for over 2,000 drivers involved in fatal or injury crashes. This estimate is on the conservative side as there is a lack of a simple, readily available means to assess the extent of driver fatigue and drowsiness.

Of note, in 2004 some 20 percent of drivers in Canada admitted to falling asleep or nodding off at the wheel during the last 12 months.

Source: Stutts et al. (1999) Why Do People Have Drowsy Driving Crashes? Input From Drivers Who Just Did.  Washington: American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Source: Traffic Injury Research Foundation Database. Excludes Quebec.

Source: The Road Safety Monitor 2004: Drowsy Driving


Is speeding a problem on the highways today?

The public certainly thinks so -- 67.9% of Canadians say speeding is a very or extremely serious problem. On a four-lane divided highway with a posted speed limit of 100 km/hr, studies found that 20% of the drivers were travelling in excess of 120 km/hr. Research has shown that excessive speed increases the risk of collisions, injury and death.

Source: Study of the Profile of High Risk Drivers. Ottawa: Transport Canada, 1997 (DJ Beirness and HM Simpson)

Source: The Road Safety Monitor 2002: Risky Driving. Ottawa. Traffic Injury Research Foundation. 2003 (DJ Beirness, HM Simpson, K Desmond)

Source: The Road Safety Monitor 2007: Drinking and Driving. Ottawa. Traffic Injury Research Foundation. 2007 (WGM Vanlaar, P Emery, HM Simpson)


Are drivers who run red lights a problem?

The public certainly thinks so -- about 76% say it is a serious or extremely serious problem. In one recent study, an average of two red light violations were recorded every hour. One study found that 29% of crashes at signalized intersections were caused by a driver violating a red light.

Source: Study of the Profile of High Risk Drivers. Ottawa: Transport Canada, 1997 (DJ Beirness and HM Simpson)

Source: The Road Safety Monitor 2006: Aggressive Driving. Ottawa. Traffic Injury Research Foundation. 2007 (WGM Vanlaar, HM Simpson, RD Robertson)

Source: The Road Safety Monitor 2004: Drowsy Driving. Ottawa. Traffic Injury Research Foundation. 2005 (DJ Beirness, HM Simpson, K Desmond)


What is distracted driving?

Distracted driving involves a diversion of attention from driving, because the driver is temporarily focusing on an object, person, task, or an event not related to driving, which reduces the driver's awareness, decision-making, and/or performance, leading to an increased risk of corrective actions, near-crashes, or crashes.

Source: International Conference on Distracted Driving: Summary of Proceedings and Recommendations 2006. (J Hedlund, HM Simpson, DR Mayhew).


How common is distracted driving?

Distractions while driving are common, as documented in recent telephone surveys in Canada and the United States. For example, substantial proportions of the driving public in the U.S. admit that they engage in distracting activities. More precisely:

  • 81% talk with passengers
  • 66% change radio or CD
  • 49% eat or drink
  • 26% make or take cell phone calls
  • 24% deal with kids
  • 12% read maps
  • 8% perform personal grooming

Source: Table 1, International Conference on Distracted Driving: Summary of Proceedings and Recommendations 2006. (J Hedlund, HM Simpson, DR Mayhew) based on data from Beirness, DJ 2005. Distracted driving: The role of survey research.


Does the use of a cell phone while driving increase crash risk?

A recent study found that the risk of collision when using a cell phone was four times higher than the risk when a cell phone was not being used. Crash risk was higher both for units that allowed the hands to be free and hand-held units. Other studies have shown that drivers who use cell phones while driving have higher crash rates, even if the use of a cell phone is not implicated in the crash.

Source: Redelmeier, DA and Tibshirani RJ 1997.  Association between Cellular-Telephone Calls and Motor Vehicle Collisions.  The New England Journal of Medicine 336 (7).

Source: Laberge-Nadeau, C. et. al. 2002. Wireless telephones and the risk of road crashes. Presented at the 6th World Conference on Injury Prevention and Control. Montreal, Quebec. May, 2002.

Source: Wilson, J., Fong, M. & Cooper, P. 2002. Collision and violation involvement of drivers who use cellular telephones. Presented at the 6th World Conference on Injury Prevention and Control. Montreal, Quebec. May, 2002.