Renewed efforts needed to curb drunk driving: poll

OTTAWA, Dec. 21, 2006 – A new poll by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) reveals that renewed efforts are needed to get drunk drivers off Canadian roads.

According to the poll, Canadians made 10.2 million drunk driving trips in Canada during the last year when they felt they were over the legal alcohol limit.

However, 92.4 per cent of these drunk driving trips were accounted for by only 4.4 per cent of the drivers. In other words, a small group of repeat offenders is the main cause of the problem.

“Canada has a drinking and driving problem,” says Ward Vanlaar, a research associate for TIRF. “A great deal of this problem is because of repeat drunk drivers.”

The public agrees. They are concerned about repeat offenders. The survey shows that 71 per cent of Canadians think at least half or more of those convicted of drunk driving will do it again.

On the encouraging side, there is clear support for efforts to deal with the problem; at least 80 per cent of Canadians are very concerned or extremely concerned about drinking and driving. This figure is higher than the number of Canadians concerned about other social issues, such as the economy, the health care system, terrorist attacks, and airline safety.

Canadians also perceive drinking and driving as the number one road safety issue facing them today. Drinking and driving was perceived to be more serious than such issues as red light running, street racing, excessive speeding, drowsy drivers, distracted drivers, and drivers using cell phones.

“After many years of drinking-driving awareness campaigns, there is always concern the public may grow complacent to the problem,” says Vanlaar. “Our poll shows the opposite; it reveals that concern has remained high for several years and that Canadians want action to be taken.”

According to Vanlaar, two reasons why Canadians remain concerned about drinking and driving are because they believe the problem is riskier than other dangerous road behaviours, and that drinking-drivers are unconcerned about the risk they pose.

Over 70 per cent of Canadians agree or strongly agree with mandatory ignition interlocks, physical coordination tests, vehicle impoundment, and increased police spot checks to fight drinking and driving. Among these various countermeasures, ignition interlocks received the highest of level of support.

“While no single measure will solve the entire drinking and driving problem, increased use of all these programs and sanctions will help get more repeat offenders off the road,” says Vanlaar. “With such a large number of drinking driving trips being made by repeat offenders, the more of them we get off the road, the better.”

At the same time, Vanlaar urges Canadians to remember the drinking and driving problem isn�t confined to repeat offenders.

“There are other high-risk groups out there, including young drivers,” says Vanlaar. “Awareness, education, and enforcement efforts need to target all at-risk groups in order to be successful.”

About the poll:

Results of TIRF�s latest opinion poll appear in The Road Safety Monitor 2006: Drinking and Driving. The drinking and driving component of The Road Safety Monitor is the first of several reports being released on several key issues facing drivers.

A total of 1,201 Canadians completed The Road Safety Monitor�s telephone poll. Results can be considered accurate within plus or minus 2.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Financial support for The Road Safety Monitor comes from Transport Canada, the Brewers of Canada, and Toyota Canada.

A copy of the full report, The Road Safety Monitor 2006: Drinking and Driving is available on TIRF�s website at: http://www.trafficinjuryresearch.com/publications/pub_details.cfm?intPubID=220.

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. More information about TIRF can be found at: www.trafficinjuryresearch.com.