Impaired driving in Canada, 2011
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Police reported over 90,000 impaired driving incidents in Canada in 2011, about 3,000 more than in 2010.
The rate of impaired driving was 262 per 100,000 population, 2% higher than in 2010 and the fourth increase in five years. Prior to 2007, the impaired driving rate had been steadily declining since the mid-1980s.
Police-reported impaired driving incidents, Canada, 1986 to 2011
Police reported 121 incidents of impaired driving causing death in 2011 and a further 839 incidents of impaired driving causing bodily harm. The rates of impaired driving causing death and causing bodily harm per 100,000 population were the lowest in 25 years.
Impaired driving rates highest among young adults
Young adults aged 20 to 24 recorded the highest impaired driving rates in 2011, based on the number of licensed drivers. Rates then steadily declined with age.
Drivers under 35 were particularly over-represented for the most serious incidents. In 2011, they accounted for about one-third of licensed drivers, but two-thirds of those accused of impaired driving causing death or injury.
While males represented 82% of all persons charged with impaired driving in 2011, the impaired driving rate for males has been declining steadily for the past 25 years.
However, the rate for females has generally been increasing since 2005. As a result, females now account for 18% of impaired drivers compared with 8% of impaired drivers 25 years ago.
Impaired driving rates increasing in most provinces since 2006
Impaired driving rates were highest in the Northwest Territories and Yukon in 2011. Among the provinces, Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island had the highest rates. Ontario and Quebec reported the lowest rates.
Since 2006, most provinces have seen increases, with the largest having occurred in Newfoundland and Labrador. However, impaired driving rates have declined slightly in both Ontario and Quebec over the past five years. Rates in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories for 2011 were also lower than in 2006.
Among census metropolitan areas (CMAs), Kelowna and St. John's reported rates of impaired driving well above other CMAs in 2011. Ottawa, London, Kingston and Windsor had the lowest rates.
Fewer convicted impaired drivers going to jail
In 2010/2011, Canadian courts completed just over 48,000 cases where impaired driving was the most serious offence. These represented 12% of all adult court cases, the highest proportion of any offence.
In 2010/2011, 84% of impaired driving cases resulted in a guilty finding compared with 64% for completed court cases in general.
Fewer than 1 in 10 (8%) impaired driving cases with a finding of guilt resulted in a prison sentence in 2010/2011, lower than the 14% sentenced to prison a decade earlier. The median prison sentence length has remained stable at around 30 days over the past decade.
Note to readers
This Juristat article analyzes trends in police-reported impaired driving in Canada, as defined by the Criminal Code and penalties imposed by the courts, as well as characteristics of those admitted to correctional services for an impaired driving conviction.
Over time, the number of police-reported impaired driving incidents can vary as a result of many factors such as legislative changes, law enforcement practices including the increased use of roadside checks, and changing attitudes toward drunk driving.
The Juristat article "Impaired driving in Canada, 2011" (Catalogue number85-002-X, free) is now available. From the Key resource module of our website under Publications, choose All subjects, then Crime and justice, and Juristat.
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