Canada Tops Drunk Driving List

If they were handing out medals for drunk-driving fatalities, Canada would get the gold. But that sobering distinction is nothing to be proud of. In fact, being number one here is a great big zero.

This summer, the US Centers for Disease Control released a study on deaths linked to drinking and driving. It covered 19 of the world’s wealthiest countries. Unfortunately, Canada ranked number one with just over a third of all motor vehicle deaths in this country having a link to drunk driving.

The US, Australia, New Zealand, and France all came close, but Canada would do better to look to Germany, Japan, and Israel for inspiration. In all three of those countries, alcohol was a factor in less than 10% of all road crash deaths.

Legal experts say Canadian drunk driving laws are not tough enough. Robert Solomon is the national legal director at Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and says Canada has “the dumbest impaired-driving laws on the face of planet.” Solomon and MADD are pushing for changes to the law.

The first of those would be to lower the blood-alcohol limit from .08 to .05. The second would be to allow police to routinely screen a driver’s breath for alcohol. Right now, the police can only ask a driver for a breathalyzer test if they have “reasonable grounds” to suspect drinking and driving – such as the smell of alcohol, glazed eyes, or slurred speech.

The second of these proposals offers some legal challenges for Canadian lawmakers, but there is a bill before Parliament to look at doing just that. More on that in the coming months.

For more information

  • Canada’s drunk-driving death rate worst among wealthy countries, U.S. study finds, National Post
  • Ottawa needs to crack down on drunk driving: Editorial, Toronto Star
  • We need new tools to prevent drunk driving, The Record

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Tony Vecchio, K.C.
Anthony (Tony) Vecchio, K.C., founded Slater Vecchio in January 1998. He has been counsel on some of the largest cases in British Columbia.