Madam Speaker, every day across Canada we know individuals who get behind the wheel of a car and make that dreadful decision of driving while impaired. I would be willing to suggest that there is not a single member in this House who has not been either directly or indirectly impacted by an incident of impaired driving.
I know the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel has been an advocate for ways to reduce impaired driving since his own daughter was severely injured in an accident involving an impaired driver. I am so glad to see her here with us in the chamber today in the gallery. I applaud the member for all that he has done to raise awareness, and for introducing a private member's motion that would proclaim the third week of March, each and every year, to be designated national impaired driving prevention week.
Far too often we hear in the news about another incident or fatality because a driver made the dreadful decision of thinking that he or she was still capable of operating a vehicle or would not get caught. In preparing for this motion, it was heart-wrenching to read about what the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel went through as his daughter was recovering, as well as listening to his presentation here in the chamber this evening. If passing this motion saves one life, then it is worth setting in stone a full week solely for the purpose of highlighting impaired driving.
I understand that through the good work of schools, police departments, governments, and organizations, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, individuals are being bombarded with respect to the consequences of getting behind the wheel after one too many beers or being high on prescription drugs or illegal substances. Police departments, such as the one in the city of Brandon, are constantly setting up check stops to look for those who think they can evade the law and put others at risk.
Many may be surprised to know this, but impaired driving in rural areas is far more overrepresented than those living in large urban centres. The reason is that in places like Ottawa and Toronto, or even in smaller communities like Red Deer or North Bay, there are available means of public transportation. This statistic of having more incidences of impaired driving in rural Canada should lead to a larger discussion on how we can make sure that impaired drivers stay off the roads and highways. Technology and innovations, such as Uber or Lyft, could in fact bridge that gap of having available ways to get home. Another program that has worked quite successfully is Operation Red Nose. For years, the volunteers of this very worthwhile program have driven thousands of people home from Christmas or New Year's parties, while also raising funds for many worthwhile causes.
The worst thing about discussing the topic of driving while impaired is that there are still some people out there in society who are more than willing to continue to do it, yet they do not think about the others who may get hurt because of their terrible life decision. Driving while impaired is one of the most selfish decisions that anyone can make.
There are some serious concerns out there that Canadians are not getting the message. According to a recent study, despite years of public messaging about the dangers of drinking and driving, Canada rates the worst among 19 wealthy countries for the percentage of roadway deaths linked to alcohol impairment. Last year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did a study of various countries and found that while fewer people were dying from car crashes, the proportion of deaths linked to alcohol impairment was 34%, which is higher than any other country that it surveyed.
I am also pleased that the member has put forward in his motion that drugs, fatigue, and distraction would also be part of a prevention week.
Psychoactive prescription drugs can also contribute to impaired driving. Not every prescription drug out there will have the same effect on one's body and mind. In many circumstances it will impact drivers in varying degrees based on the length of time they have taken the prescription drug or the dosage. While alcohol and illegal substances are now at the forefront of any discussion involving impaired driving, we can never forget that more Canadians take prescription drugs than ever before in our history.
While there are particular stories involving prescription drugs that have made the news, such as the recent incident involving a famous golfer, it is imperative for all of us to shine a light on the inadequate amount of information available to everyday Canadians about the consequences of prescription drugs and their impact on one's motor skills. We also know there are countless instances of people being under the influence of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, and crystal meth, which impact their body and brain just as badly, if not worse, than alcohol. According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction, the percentage of Canadian drivers fatally injured in vehicle crashes and testing positive for drugs now exceeds that of drivers testing positive for alcohol.
As parliamentarians, we must be fully seized with the unintended consequences of legalizing recreational marijuana. I have spoken at great length about my trepidations of rushing the July 1, 2018 deadline. While I am fully supportive of this private member's motion, I wonder if we should at this moment in time heed the advice of police chiefs, mayors, and provincial governments, who all say they will not be prepared by this date. Across Canada, police departments are scrambling to train and certify their officers as drug recognition experts so they can identify and charge those who are impaired.
If we at this time can reflect on the real life consequences of what will happen once marijuana is legalized for recreational purposes, all partisanship aside, it would be inappropriate to rush ahead until at least the training and equipment are acquired by our law enforcement agencies.
It is truly astounding that regardless of how many times people are reminded and taught about the dangers of driving while impaired, the numbers are not coming down as quickly as we would like. According to MADD Canada, over a thousand Canadians are dying in impairment-related crashes. While there have been great strides in bringing this number down, there is still much more to do.
We must never forget that only 50 years ago, impaired driving was in many instances a tolerated behaviour. Many of us have heard stories of someone being caught behind the wheel being impaired, yet sometimes being allowed by the police officer to drive home while the officer followed them to make sure they made it. Now in Canada, our drunk driving laws are some of the most heavily litigated in our judicial system, and massive amounts of resources are being applied to keep our roadways safe.
I know that bars, pubs, and restaurants are all doing their part in serving responsibly. I know that organizations are working diligently around the clock to lobby for stricter laws and new laws to deter reckless behaviour. The most powerful antidote to fix this problem is for friends and loved ones to step up to the plate and ensure that nobody operates a motor vehicle while impaired. Education and awareness must continue. I know there are many members in this House who have worked diligently on Bill C-46. I also know that police and RCMP officers are doing everything in their power to enforce the law and keep dangerous drivers from hurting others.
No person or family deserves to go through what the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel has gone through. I too know first-hand what it means to be directly impacted by an impaired driver. One incident is too many. We should never tolerate, under any circumstance, driving while impaired as socially acceptable. With that I will finish my remarks, and once again thank my hon. colleague for all his work throughout the years and for bringing this debate to the floor of the House of Commons.