Let me first thank you, the chairs and the members of the committee, for this invitation to present the most recent statistics on impaired driving in Canada.
Today, I am going to give you an overview of the most significant and most recent indicators, derived from various sources of data on the issue.
First, let me highlight some of the key and most important findings in relation to impaired driving in Canada.
Only a very small proportion of people drive while being impaired, but of those who do most are doing it recurrently. Impaired drivers also more often adopt other at-risk behaviours such as being a passenger of another impaired driver, driving faster and more aggressively, not fastening their seat belt, and using a cellphone without a hands-free device. Police report that statistics show a sharp decline in impaired driving over the last 30 years. Recent declines were more pronounced among categories frequently targeted by campaigns and policies, for example, among young drivers, males, and during the night.
Finally, drug-impaired driving incidents are less likely to be cleared by a charge, they take more than twice the time to be completed in courts than other alcohol-related cases, and they are less likely to result in a guilty finding.
First, I am going to talk about self-reported data from a sample of close to 32,000 Canadians in a sample survey.
Self-reported data on drug-impaired driving are very limited at the moment. That is why I am going to focus here essentially on impairment by alcohol.
The table on slide 3 shows the proportion of drivers who report having driven after consuming two drinks in the preceding hour, at least once in the preceding 12 months.
Overall, a little over 4% of Canadian drivers report having driven after consuming two alcoholic drinks in the hour before getting behind the wheel. That figure rises to 5% when motor boats, ATVs, or other recreational vehicles are included.
As an indication, in 2015—this is not on the table—almost 3% of Alberta drivers, the only place where that kind of data is available, reported that they have driven after consuming drugs and 9% reported doing so after consuming alcohol. In other words, in Alberta, drugs were at the origin of about one-quarter of impaired driving cases self-reported in this survey. That could indicate that current police data significantly underestimate drug-impaired driving, since they represent only 4% of cases recorded by police services.
In slide 4 you can see the number of times impaired drivers reported driving while impaired in the 12 months preceding the survey. A relatively small proportion of drivers reported that they had driven while impaired in the past 12 months, but of those who did, the vast majority did it more than once. On average, impaired drivers reported six occurrences of impaired driving in the previous 12 months. Our court data also show that high proportions of offenders had been previously accused even more so for the most serious offences.
Slide 5 shows the proportion of drivers who report having driven while impaired, broken down by age group. You can see that young adults between 25 and 34 years old are more likely to drive while impaired.
Impaired driving is not a behaviour in isolation. It is often one of a number of at-risk behaviours. Those who drive faster and more aggressively, without seatbelts, or while using a cellphone without a “hands free” function and, above all, those who ride as passengers of an impaired driver, all report driving while impaired in significantly higher numbers than others.
Moreover, other research also shows that the risk of accidents increases when passengers are intoxicated too. So it makes sense to target the other on-road behaviours first; being a passenger with an impaired driver could be an effective way to target impaired driving.
Slide 6 deals with police-reported data. The table traces the impaired driving rate from the mid-1980s. You can clearly see that the rate of impaired driving has declined sharply in that period, as has already been mentioned.
In 2016 about 67,000 impaired-driving incidents were reported by police forces. That translates to a rate of 186 incidents per 100,000 population, a rate that is three times lower than 30 years ago. By contrast, drug-impaired driving is on the rise, although still accounting for a small proportion of all police-reported impaired driving. Even though impaired driving has decreased sharply over the last 30 years, it remains one of the most frequent criminal offences reported by the police. In fact, when taking into consideration crimes that do not come to the attention of the police, impaired driving is likely the most frequent crime. It is one of the leading criminal causes of death.
Slide 7 shows a graph of police-reported impaired driving rates by province and territory. Like crime in general, we note important variations in impaired driving across the country. The lowest rates are recorded in Ontario and Quebec, and the highest in the territories and in Saskatchewan. As for police-reported drug-impaired driving, the variations are relatively similar, with the highest rates being recorded in the Atlantic.
In slide 8 we have a chart showing the impaired-driving rates by age of licensed drivers for 2009 and 2016. As you can see, impaired-driving rates declined amongst all age groups, but the opposite was observed for drug-impaired rates, which increased for all age groups. The greatest declines in overall rates were among the youngest age group. It is worth noting that some provinces recently implemented zero tolerance for young drivers. Coincidentally, these provinces are where the largest declines in youth impaired driving occurred.
Another large decrease was observed at night. Although almost half of all of the impaired-driving incidents still happen between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m., about 70% of the overall decrease in impaired driving in the past six or seven years occurred during that time period. Targeting peak period is known to be one of the most effective ways to combat impaired driving. Of note, though, is the fact that our data show that drug-impaired driving does not have strong peak periods. There are just about as many drug-impaired driving incidents early in the evening as there are during the night, which may cause a potential challenge in addressing the issue of drug-impaired driving.
In slide 9 you can see a chart on the clearance status by type of substance causing impairment. As you can see, alcohol-impaired drivers are more likely to be charged than drug-impaired drivers. However, it's interesting to see that the gap between alcohol and drug impairment has narrowed, especially since the implementation of drug recognition experts in 2008.
We now move to slide 10. I would like to draw your attention to the impaired driving cases brought to court. The cases represent a significant part of the courts' workload. In 2014-2015, actually, the figure was about one case in ten, making it one of the most frequent offences brought to court.
On slide 11, you can see that the median time needed varies enormously with the type of case to be heard. You can see here that the median time for alcohol-impaired driving is 114 days. This is shown by the pale blue line. The dotted red line, showing all other offences, shows a similar level. However, a median time of 245 days, more than double, is required to settle a case involving drug-impaired driving. That is the dark blue line.
On slide 12, you can see that in addition to taking longer to be completed, drug-impaired driving cases are also less likely to end with a guilty verdict. At the national level, 60% of those in drug-related cases are found guilty, while it was 80% for alcohol-related cases.
Our data show that a small number of those driving while impaired do so repeatedly. Impaired driving is associated with other at-risk behaviours on the road, such as being a passenger of another impaired driver on other occasions.
Although a significant decrease in impaired driving can be seen in the police statistics, it is still one of the most frequent offences and the second highest cause of criminal death. The largest declines were recorded among young drivers, an age group often targeted by prevention campaigns. Drug-impaired driving could be more difficult to combat, given that there is no peak period during a day that could be easily targeted. In addition, cases lead to a guilty verdict less frequently, and take more time to be dealt with by the courts.
That concludes my presentation.