Fewer Canadians admit driving after drinking; still room for improvement: Poll

OTTAWA, Dec. 13, 2012 /CNW/ - A new poll by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) reveals that fewer Canadian drivers are getting behind the wheel after drinking. Researchers found that both the percentage of drinking drivers who drove after drinking any amount of alcohol and of drinking drivers who drove when they thought they were over the legal limit dropped in 2012 compared to previous years. The public opinion poll conducted in October 2012 investigated Canadians' behaviours and actions in relation to drinking and driving as well as trends in their behaviours.

In a new Road Safety Monitor (RSM) report by TIRF, researchers found that the percentage of those who drove after drinking any amount of alcohol decreased from 19.2% in 2011 to 17.3% in 2012. Researchers also found a significant decrease in the percentage of Canadian drivers who admitted to driving when they thought they were over the legal limit in the past twelve months from 5.4% in 2011 to 3.6% in 2012. The drop in 2012 is even larger when compared with the 9.1% reported in 1998. TIRF first reported a significant drop in the number of drivers who admitted to driving when they thought they were over the legal limit in 2008. Reasons explaining the additional decrease in 2012 are not immediately apparent but researchers say this finding is encouraging.

"Socio-economic factors such as employment rates, increasing gas prices and reduced alcohol consumption are always noted as possible contributing factors when looking at impaired driving rates, "explains Kyla Marcoux, TIRF research associate. "However, increases in the availability and the scope of educational programming and awareness campaigns as well changes to federal and jurisdictional impaired driving laws in recent years may be contributing factors as well and further monitoring will be needed to quantify the effects."

In spite of these declines, researchers want to emphasize that further progress can be made. The study found that the decline seen among the percentage of drivers who admitted to driving after drinking any alcohol in 2012 is still well above the low of 14.7% that was reported in 2005. This may suggest that a small number of drivers continue to be unaware of the risks that lower levels of alcohol can pose.

Marcoux explains that "Even in small quantities, alcohol can have a detrimental effect on one's driving ability. Fatigue, lack of food and mixing drugs, prescription or illicit with alcohol can also magnify the effects of alcohol on your system."

With the holiday season upon us, TIRF, along with poll sponsors, Brewers Association of Canada, Toyota Canada Foundation, and Aviva Canada, remind Canadians to plan ahead when celebrating out with friends or at home with loved ones. According to survey results, more than a third of respondents who drove when thought they were over the legal limit reported doing most of their drinking at the home of a friend or relative. Another third of respondents reported that they had been drinking at a bar or restaurant.

"Drinking drivers clearly continue to be a great concern for Canadians, as over 81% of respondents rated the issue as a very or extremely serious problem," notes Marcoux. "And Canadians can be part of the solution. If you're hosting a get together this holiday season, encourage alternatives such as public transit, taxis or designated drive programs or offer to have them stay the night. By speaking up, you're helping to reinforce that driving after drinking isn't the social norm."

Quick Facts:

  • Studies have revealed a strong relationship between blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and crash risk; crash risk begins to increase considerably at a BAC of 0.04%-0.05% (the legal limit being 0.08%) and increases exponentially once BACs reach 0.10% or greater.

  • In a 2011 poll, an overwhelming percentage of young drivers surveyed (86%) agreed or strongly agreed to not being able to drive safely after consuming alcohol. This percentage of young drivers was also significantly higher than drivers aged 25 and older, of which only 77% agreed to not being able to drive safely after drinking. (The Road Safety Monitor 2011: Youth Drinking and Driving)

  • Nothing can speed up the elimination of alcohol from your body. It is estimated when drinking, a typical male eliminates about two-thirds of a drink per hour; a typical female burns up about one-half a drink in that hour. Drinking coffee, exercise, deep breathing, or a cold shower will not speed up the elimination process. Only time can make you sober up.

About the poll. These results are based on the RSM, an annual public opinion poll developed and conducted by TIRF. A total of 903 Canadians completed the poll in October of 2012. Results can be considered accurate within plus or minus 3.3%, 19 times out of 20. For the third time, some respondents were contacted by phone and some online. The RSM was made possible by financial support from the Brewers Association of Canada, Toyota Canada Foundation, and Aviva Canada.

For the fifth year in a row, the poll included a closer examination of regional drinking and driving attitudes and behaviours. Both the regional and national reports are available on TIRF's website via bit.ly/UocKLp.

About 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. Visit us online at www.tirf.ca.


For further information:

Sara Oglestone
Manager, Marketing and Communications
613-238-5235 (office)
1-877-238-5235 (toll-free)

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