Wednesday, December 26, 2007
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More driving drunk in Canada, poll finds
OMAR EL AKKAD
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
December 26, 2007 at 12:02 AM EST
Canada is no longer making progress in reducing drunk driving, according to a leading traffic research group.
A poll of more than 1,000 Canadians by the Ottawa-based Traffic Injury Research Foundation this month shows the number of Canadians driving drunk has jumped over the past three years.
The percentage of Canadians who drove over the legal limit climbed to 8.2 per cent this year, up from 5.6 per cent in 2004, the foundation said.
“We're no longer seeing a pattern of declines in drinking and driving behaviour,” said Ward Vanlaar, a research scientist at the foundation. “This is very similar to what's occurring in other countries.”
The poll results come in the holiday season, a time when police forces across the country conduct frequent spot checks in the hopes of dissuading partiers from driving.
Repeat drunk drivers were least concerned about the issue, the poll found. They also made up the vast majority of drinking and driving incidents across the country.
“Repeat drinking drivers were responsible for 6.6 million drunk-driving trips in Canada last year; that adds up to about 90 per cent of all drunk-driving activity,” Mr. Vanlaar said. “Clearly this group isn't getting the message.”
So far this year, the number of people caught driving over the legal limit is up in many parts of Canada. In Winnipeg, police have caught about twice as many people driving impaired or refusing a breathalyzer – both in the weeks leading up to Christmas and so far this year – compared with 2006.
In Toronto, officers laid about 60 drinking and driving charges over the past 26 days, compared with 53 charges during the same period last year. However, Toronto police also stopped about 13,000 more vehicles during the holiday season this year than during the same period in 2006, as about 150 more police officers took part in the spot-check program this year.
The Traffic Injury Research Foundation found that, compared to the average driver, those who drink are more often men, and have prior traffic tickets.
More than 80 per cent of those polled supported the use of mandatory ignition interlocks and immediate vehicle impoundment as punishment for those caught driving drunk.
A total of 1,238 Canadians were polled. Results are accurate within plus or minus 2.8 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
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