Regional drinking & driving trends comparable across Canada: TIRF Poll

OTTAWA, Jan. 2, 2009 – A new poll by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) reveals that drinking driving trends are comparable across Canadian regions and that a significant number of Canadians in each region are personally affected by drinking and driving crashes, making it a real cause for concern.

A first for the Road Safety Monitor (RSM), the public opinion poll investigated the issue of drinking and driving in five regions: Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario, the Prairies, and British Columbia.

According to the results, about 80% of the public in the different regions are very or extremely concerned about drinking and driving. “There may be some fluctuations between the regions but the bottom line is that the emerging trends are the same and differences are not statistically significant,” says Ward Vanlaar, research scientist at TIRF. “Each year, about 1/3 of all road fatalities are alcohol-related, and this clearly impacts a significant number of Canadians.”

According to official statistics, in 2006, 907 Canadians were killed in a traffic crash involving a drinking driver. This represents an increase since 2005. “Since 2000, progress has been slower, and the 2005 and 2006 data suggest that progress is inconsistent,” says Vanlaar.

The poll also revealed that drinking and driving is ranked by the public in each of the regions as the most important concern of all road safety issues. This is consistent with the national trend since 2001, the first year when this poll was conducted.

Vanlaar says he’s not surprised by these results, “Given the lack of progress, combined with the number of Canadians affected by the profound consequences of these crashes, a high level of concern is warranted.”

However, this level of concern has not translated into changes in behavior for some Canadians, as there has been an increase in the number of Canadians who admit to driving after having consumed alcohol.

“While no comparison data were available at the regional level, approximately 18 per cent of Canadians polled admitted to driving after consuming any amount of alcohol in the past 30 days in 2008 according to the national results”, says Vanlaar. “This figure has increased from reported national levels in 2006, and further suggests that progress in the fight against drinking and driving has halted.”

Of interest, Canadians in each of the regions were also asked about different counter-measures to combat drinking and driving. Results show that Canadians across the country continue to show support for various technologies, programs, and penalties for those who drink and drive.

“Levels of support for specific measures for drunk drivers range from 60% to 80%,” according to Vanlaar. “However, we also found that about half of Canadians in each of the regions support the use of a device in all vehicles that would prevent any driver from starting the car if they have been drinking.”

Such a trend likely reflects the concern about the problem of drinking and driving among Canadians and the awareness of the need to do something about it.

About the poll:

These results are based on the Road Safety Monitor (RSM), an annual public opinion poll developed and conducted by TIRF. A total of 1,201 Canadians completed the poll. Results can be considered accurate within plus or minus 2.9%, 19 times out of 20. Financial support for this report and other reports in The Road Safety Monitor series comes from Transport Canada and the Brewers Association of Canada.

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. For more information, visit

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