Impaired driving in Canada, 2019

by Samuel Perreault, Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics

Release date: July 15, 2021
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Highlights

  • The police-reported impaired driving rate increased by 19% in 2019 from 2018, ending a downward trend that began in 2011.
  • Many legislative measures to address drug-impaired driving were implemented in 2018. In 2019, police reported 6,453 incidents of drug-impaired driving, representing 8% of all incidents of impaired driving and a 43% increase over 2018. Alcohol-impaired driving, which was also impacted by new legislative measures, increased by 15% in 2019.
  • The rate of impaired driving causing death reached its lowest level since data collection began, falling 38% from 2018. By contrast, the rate of impaired driving causing bodily harm rose slightly (+4%).
  • Among the provinces, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador posted the highest rates of impaired driving in 2019, while Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba had the lowest rates.
  • Among the census metropolitan areas, Moncton, Abbotsford–Mission and Lethbridge saw the highest rates of impaired driving, while Kingston, Toronto and Winnipeg had the lowest rates.
  • Alcohol-impaired driving peaks on weekends and late evenings. However, the rate of drug-impaired driving varies little from one time of day to another, as police reported just as many of these incidents between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. as between 11:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m.
  • Impaired drivers are most often men and young adults. However, it was among these groups that alcohol-impaired driving decreased the most and drug-impaired driving increased the least.
  • Drug-impaired driving incidents rarely led to charges based on new blood concentration limits. In addition, they took longer to be cleared by the police and were less likely to be cleared by charge.
  • Cases of drug-impaired driving in criminal court took about twice as long as alcohol-related cases. On average, they required more court appearances and were less likely to result in a guilty finding.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have led to a decline in impaired driving incidents. From March 2020 to February 2021, a sample of police services reported a 14% decrease in impaired operation of a motor vehicle and a 33% decrease in impaired driving causing death or bodily harm from the same period a year earlier.
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Impaired driving is a major public safety issue in Canada. Despite significant progress in recent decades, it remains one of the leading criminal causes of death in Canada. According to police-reported data, impaired driving killed as many as 155 people in Canada in 2019 (88 impaired driversNote  and 67 other road users) and injured 540.Note  By comparison, all other criminal offences causing death excluding homicide resulted in the deaths of 108 people in 2019.

In addition to the human cost, impaired driving has a significant financial cost for Canadian taxpayers, particularly because of the significant police resources it requires and the heavy burden it places on the justice system. Despite a decrease in the number of cases of impaired driving over the last 10 years, it is still the most common offence brought to adult criminal court. Furthermore, a 2013 study for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada estimated that the total social costs associated with impaired driving were $20.6 billion (Pitel and Solomon 2013).

In 2018, the legalization of recreational cannabis came with concerns about drug-impaired driving. Studies have pointed to a possible, though potentially temporary, increase in drug-impaired driving in U.S. states that have legalized recreational cannabis (Nazif-Munoz et al. 2020; Kamer et al. 2020; Aydelotte et al. 2019; Lane and Hall 2019). In addition, before cannabis became legal, police services in Canada were already stopping an increasing number of drug-impaired drivers (Moreau 2019; Perreault 2016).Note 

So, to coincide with legalization, the Government of Canada implemented measures to fight drug-impaired driving. In June 2018, former Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, received royal assent. Amendments were then made to the sections of the Criminal Code dealing with impaired driving. In particular, police were granted new powers to screen for alcohol and drugs, including the introduction of mandatory alcohol screening. Per se limits (i.e., predetermined blood concentration limits) were established for many drugs, as well as for impaired driving involving a combination of alcohol and drugs (see Text box 2).

Using police-reported data collected through the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (UCR) and data from the Integrated Criminal Court Survey (ICCS), this Juristat article presents an analysis of major trends in impaired driving in Canada, with a focus on drug-impaired driving. This report was sponsored by the Department of Justice Canada.

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Text box 1
Definition of impaired driving

The Criminal Code impaired driving offences are as follows:

  • 320.14 (1) Everyone commits an offence who
    • (a) operates a conveyance while the person’s ability to operate it is impaired to any degree by alcohol or a drug or by a combination of alcohol and a drug;
    • (b) subject to subsection (5), has, within two hours after ceasing to operate a conveyance, a blood alcohol concentration that is equal to or exceeds 80 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood;
    • (c) subject to subsection (6), has, within two hours after ceasing to operate a conveyance, a blood drug concentration that is equal to or exceeds the blood drug concentration for the drug that is prescribed by regulation; or
    • (d) subject to subsection (7), has, within two hours after ceasing to operate a conveyance, a blood alcohol concentration and a blood drug concentration that is equal to or exceeds the blood alcohol concentration and the blood drug concentration for the drugs that are prescribed by regulation for instances where alcohol and that drug are combined.
  • 320.15 (1) Everyone commits an offence who, knowing that a demand has been made, fails or refuses to comply, without reasonable excuse, with a demand made under section 320.27 or 320.28 (sections on screening for alcohol or drugs).

Each of these sections is followed by subsections (2) and (3), which create the aggravated offences that involve bodily harm (2) or death (3). Subsection (4) of section 320.14 also creates the offence of “Operation – low blood drug concentration:”

  • (4) Subject to subsection (6), everyone commits an offence who has, within two hours after ceasing to operate a conveyance, a blood drug concentration that is equal to or exceeds the blood drug concentration for the drug that is prescribed by regulation but is less than the concentration prescribed for the purposes of paragraph (1)(c).

Provincial and territorial laws

In addition to the provisions of the Criminal Code, provincial and territorial road safety laws outline the suspension of driver’s licences for impaired driving, as well as zero tolerance for young or novice drivers. Most provinces and territories also set out fines for drivers with a high blood alcohol level (generally 50 mg or more of alcohol per 100 ml of blood but less than 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood) and the possibility of requiring the driver to undergo an evaluation, an education program, or to use an ignition interlock device. In recent decades, provincial and territorial administrative sanctions have become more severe and have been used with increasing frequency (Solomon et al. 2020). A document prepared by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction provides a summary of the key measures in place in each province and territory (Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction 2020a).

It should be noted that impaired driving that meets the definitions under provincial law, but not under the Criminal Code, is not included in the data presented in this report.

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Police-reported impaired driving at its highest level in nearly 10 years

In 2019, police services in Canada reported a total of 85,673 incidents of impaired driving, the highest number since 2011 (Table 1). When factoring in population size, this represents a rate of 228 incidents per 100,000 population, an increase of 19% over the previous year and 21% over the low reached in 2017 (Chart 1).

Chart 1 start

Chart 1 Rate of police-reported impaired driving incidents, Canada, 1986 to 2019

Data table for Chart 1 
Data table for chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 1. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Rate per 100,000 population (appearing as column headers).
Year Rate per 100,000 population
1986 577
1987 561
1988 538
1989 529
1990 502
1991 502
1992 467
1993 410
1994 372
1995 349
1996 325
1997 301
1998 291
1999 283
2000 258
2001 267
2002 255
2003 245
2004 252
2005 243
2006 234
2007 241
2008 255
2009 263
2010 257
2011 261
2012 242
2013 221
2014 210
2015 201
2016 197
2017 189
2018 191
2019 228

Chart 1 end

Despite this recent increase, the impaired driving rate remains well below the rate recorded 35 years ago. When collection of comparable data began in 1986, police reported 577 incidents per 100,000 population. Until the early 2000s, this rate declined by an average of 5.5% each year, before stabilizing at about 250 incidents per 100,000 population during the 2000s. The 2010s were marked by another downward trend until 2018, when the most recent amendments to the Criminal Code for impaired driving were enacted.

In 2018, police were granted new powers to screen for alcohol and drugs and new offence categories were created (see Text box 1 and Text box 2). In addition, the Government of Canada invested $161 million over five years to fight drug-impaired driving, particularly to train police officers, increase law enforcement capacity, purchase detection equipment, encourage research and implement awareness campaigns (Public Safety Canada 2020). Many police services, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, have made impaired driving one of their organizational priorities (Royal Canadian Mounted Police 2021).

Despite the many deaths caused by impaired driving, most incidents do not have a direct victim. As with most crimes that have no victim, the impaired driving rate reported by police is more likely than many other crimes to vary based on law enforcement practices and police service priorities. So, the increase in 2019 may be caused—at least in part—by better detection by police of impaired driving. In addition, changes to the rules for reporting founded and unfounded incidents may also have influenced the increase in the number of police-reported impaired driving incidents (see Text box 3).

Impaired driving causing death at its lowest level

Incidents of impaired driving causing death or bodily harm are more likely to be brought to the attention of police, because of their more serious nature and the presence of victims.Note  For this reason, trends in impaired driving causing death or bodily harm may prove to be better indicators of the actual trend in impaired driving or, at least, of the magnitude of the harm linked to this offence.

In 2019, police reported 66 incidents of impaired driving causing death, compared with 105 the previous year.Note  The former is the lowest number of incidents of impaired driving causing death since comparable data were first collected in 1986. Over this period, the rate of impaired driving causing death fell by more than 60%, from 0.75 incidents per 100,000 population in 1986 to 0.18 incidents per 100,000 in 2019 (Chart 2).

Chart 2 start

Chart 2 Rate of police-reported impaired driving causing death or causing bodily harm, Canada, 1986 to 2019

Data table for Chart 2 
Data table for chart 2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 2. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Impaired driving causing death and Impaired driving causing bodily harm, calculated using rate per 100,000 population
units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year Impaired driving causing death Impaired driving causing bodily harm
rate per 100,000 population
1986 1 6
1987 1 6
1988 1 6
1989 1 5
1990 1 5
1991 1 5
1992 1 5
1993 1 4
1994 1 4
1995 1 4
1996 1 4
1997 1 4
1998 0 4
1999 1 4
2000 1 4
2001 0 3
2002 0 3
2003 1 3
2004 0 3
2005 0 3
2006 1 3
2007 1 3
2008 1 3
2009 0 3
2010 0 2
2011 0 2
2012 0 2
2013 0 2
2014 0 2
2015 0 2
2016 0 2
2017 0 1
2018 0 1
2019 0 1

Chart 2 end

Impaired driving causing bodily harm has also been on a generally downward trend, despite a slight increase from 2018. In 2019, police recorded 483 incidents of impaired driving causing bodily harm, 26 more than the dip in 2018. However, the rate of impaired driving causing bodily harm in 2019 (1.28 incidents per 100,000 population) was half the rate of 10 years earlier and nearly five times lower than in 1986 (6.06 incidents per 100,000 population).

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Text box 2
History of selected Criminal Code amendments that affect impaired driving offences

1921: Parliament creates, under the Criminal Code, the summary conviction offence of driving while intoxicated.

1925: The offence of driving while intoxicated by a drug was enacted.

1969: The 1921 offence of driving while intoxicated is repealed. The offence of driving while impaired is retained and “exceeds 80 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood” offence and the refusal to provide a breath sample on an approved instrument offence are added by Parliament as summary conviction offences (hybridized in 1975).

1985: The prohibition of operating a vehicle while impaired is extended to aircraft and vessels. The maximum sentence is raised to 14 years where impaired operation causes death, and to 10 years where it causes bodily harm. A mandatory driving prohibition period is introduced and some adjustments are made to penalties.

1999: Driving with a blood alcohol concentration exceeding 160 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood becomes an aggravating factor for the purposes of sentencing. A judge can now impose treatment or the use of an ignition interlock device. Driving prohibition periods are increased and the minimum fine for a first impaired-driving offence is raised from $300 to $600.

2000: The maximum penalty for impaired driving causing death is increased to life imprisonment.

2008: The minimum fine for a first offence is raised from $600 to $1,000. The minimum penalty for a second offence goes from 14 days to 30 days and for a subsequent offence, from 90 days to 120 days. Moreover, police are now allowed to perform physical roadside sobriety tests and demand an assessment by an evaluating officer of drivers suspected of drug impairment.

2018: Many amendments concerning impaired driving are made to the Criminal Code in the Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts S.C. 2018, c. 21 (formerly Bill C-46). Specifically, the following amendments:

  • authorize the police to use “approved drug screening equipment” (e.g., saliva drug screeners) at the roadside;
  • enact three new offences related to having a blood drug concentration over the predetermined limit within two hours of driving (also known as “per se limits”), including a per se offence involving a combination of alcohol and drugs. Per se limits were established by regulation and are not found in the Criminal Code;
  • allow police to demand a breath sample from a driver even if there is no suspicion that driver has alcohol in their body (also called “mandatory alcohol screening”), facilitate the police’s ability to demand a blood sample, and eliminate the requirement that a sample be taken by or under the direct supervision of a physician;
  • permit a drug recognition expert to testify without requiring them to be qualified as an expert in every case, consistent with the 2017 Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Bingley.

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Increase in police-reported drug-impaired driving

Although drug-impaired driving has been an indictable offence since 1925, it was relatively difficult to prove until recently. In 2008, new tools were authorized in the Criminal Code to facilitate the investigation of drug-impaired driving. This included the Drug Evaluation and Classification Program and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (see Text box 3). It was also in 2008 that police-reported data began to differentiate between drug-impaired driving and alcohol-impaired driving. In 2018, the legalization of recreational cannabis raised new concerns about drug-impaired driving. In response to these concerns, the Canadian government implemented a series of legislative measures and made significant investments to address drug-impaired driving, whether it involves cannabis or any other drug (Public Safety Canada 2020).

In 2019, police reported 6,453 drug-impaired driving incidents, for a rate of 17 incidents per 100,000 population (Table 2).Note  Although these incidents represent only 8% of all impaired driving incidents, the rate increased by 43% from the previous year and was about four times higher than the rate recorded in 2009 (4.3 incidents per 100,000 population), the first full year for which police-reported data on drug-impaired driving were available. Conversely, the rate of alcohol-impaired driving has fallen by 20%Note  since 2009. As a result, from 2009 to 2019, the proportion of drug-impaired driving incidents rose from less than 2% to 8% of all impaired driving incidents (Chart 3).

Chart 3 start

Chart 3 Rate of police-reported impaired driving, by substance causing impairment, Canada, 2009 to 2019

Data table for Chart 3 
Data table for chart 3
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 3. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Alcohol-impaired driving, Drug-impaired driving, Alcohol and Drugs, calculated using rate per 100,000 population units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year Alcohol-impaired drivingData table for chart 3 Note 1 Drug-impaired drivingData table for chart 3 Note 2
Alcohol Drugs
rate per 100,000 population
2009 258 4
2010 251 5
2011 255 5
2012 237 6
2013 215 6
2014 203 7
2015 194 8
2016 189 9
2017 180 10
2018 179 12
2019 206 17

Chart 3 end

The number of incidents of drug-impaired driving causing death or drug-impaired driving causing bodily harm―40 incidents in 2019 for these two offences, combined―has remained relatively stable over the last three years. However, it was roughly double the number reported by police 10 years ago.

Among the new legislative measures enacted in 2018 were the creation a new per se offence that specifically targets driving while impaired by a combination of alcohol and drugs. The quantities of alcohol and drugs in the blood required to constitute a criminal offence are lower than when only one substance is involved. Studies have shown that even in small concentrations, the combination of alcohol and drugs significantly affects driving ability and greatly increases the risk of an accident (Downey et al. 2013; Hartman 2015).

Starting in 2018, police began to record and report incidents of impaired driving involving a combination of alcohol and drugs.Note  Before that, most of these incidents were more likely to have been recorded as incidents of alcohol-impaired driving.Note  As a result, incidents of impaired driving involving both alcohol and drugs were combined with alcohol-impaired driving incidents in the trend analyses in this report, including in Chart 3. In 2019, police reported 4,618 incidents of impaired driving involving a combination of alcohol and drugs, representing a rate of 12 incidents per 100,000 population. Police also reported 1,784 incidents of impaired driving involving an unspecified substance,Note  resulting in a rate of 4.7 incidents per 100,000 population (Table 2).

Given the new legislative measures and the additional methods available to police to detect drug-impaired driving, it is possible that at least some of the observed increase has been caused by improved detection rather than an actual increase in drug-impaired driving. According to the results of the Police Administration Survey, 604 drug recognition experts (DREs) were trained in the 2018/2019 fiscal year, bringing the total number of these experts to just over a thousand. In addition to DREs, during that same period, more than 8,000 police officers completed training or upgrading on the standardized field sobriety test (also known as the “physical coordination test”). So, it appears evident that awareness and the ability of the police to detect drug-impaired driving have quickly evolved in recent years and may partly account for some of the increases observed.

Nevertheless, while the detection capacity has improved, studies have shown that drug-impaired driving is significantly under-detected (Brubacher et al. 2018; Solomon and Chamberlain 2014) and that drugs may be involved as often—or maybe more often—than alcohol in impaired driving incidents (Goldenbeld 2020; Brubacher et al. 2018; Beirness and Beasley 2018; Brown et al. 2017; Minaker et al. 2017). A review conducted by Public Safety Canada determined that available data pointed to an increase in the proportion of drug-impaired driving incidents compared with alcohol-impaired driving incidents (Public Safety Canada 2020).

According to data from the National Cannabis Survey, however, it does not appear that driving under the impairment of cannabis has increased since recreational cannabis was legalized. For the post-legalization period covering the first three quarters of 2019, 13.2% of cannabis users with a driver’s licence reported driving within two hours of use at least once in the three months preceding the survey, a proportion similar to what was observed in the pre-legalization period covering the first three quarters of 2018 (14.2%) (Rotermann 2020). In addition, the results of this survey revealed that the proportion of Canadians who reported being a passenger in a vehicle driven by a person who had used cannabis fell from 5.3% in the pre-legalization period to 4.2% post-legalization. Similar findings were also drawn from the Quebec Cannabis Survey (Institut de la statistique du Québec 2020).

However, these studies only concern cannabis, while police-reported drug-impaired driving data include impairment by any type of drug. Although cannabis is likely common intoxicating substance, it is responsible for only a portion of drug-impaired driving incidents. According to various studies, other drugs, including medications that may affect driving ability, may also be frequently involved (Brubacher et al. 2018; Public Safety Canada 2020; Beirness 2020).

Increase in police-reported alcohol-impaired driving

Most of the new legislative measures put into place in 2018 target drug-impaired driving, but many of them—such as the mandatory alcohol screening and the new per se limit for alcohol and drug-impaired driving—address alcohol-impaired driving. In 2019, police services across Canada reported a rate of 206 alcohol-impaired driving (or impaired driving involving a combination of alcohol and drugs) incidents per 100,000 population, up 15% from the previous year (Chart 3).Note  Note 

Although this may seem like a small increase compared to the 43% increase noted for drug-impaired driving, it does represent more than 11,000 additional alcohol-impaired driving incidents, while the increase in drug-impaired driving represents about 2,000 additional incidents. As a matter of a fact, despite years of increases in drug-impaired driving, alcohol-impaired driving still represents more than 90% of all police-reported impaired driving, and as such, overall trends in police-reported impaired driving are largely reflective of trends in alcohol-impaired driving.

Prince Edward Island has the highest rate of impaired driving among the provinces

Impaired driving rates vary across the country. In 2019, Prince Edward Island had the highest police-reported rate of impaired driving incidents among the provinces, with 645 incidents per 100,000 population. This was the first time in more than 20 years that a province other than Saskatchewan recorded the highest rate. Saskatchewan posted a rate of 539 incidents per 100,000 population, the second-highest rate among the provinces (Chart 4).

Chart 4 start

Chart 4 Rate of police-reported impaired driving, by substance causing impairment and by province and territory, 2019

Data table for Chart 4 
Data table for chart 4
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 4. The information is grouped by Province and Territories (appearing as row headers), Alcohol, Alcohol and drugs, Drugs and Unspecified, calculated using rate per 100,000 population units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Province and Territories Alcohol Alcohol and drugs Drugs Unspecified
rate per 100,000 population
Newfoundland and Labrador 341 25 52 12
Prince Edward Island 536 61 48 0
Nova Scotia 322 17 31 8
New Brunswick 316 14 36 1
Quebec 151 7 17 1
Ontario 81 11 6 6
Manitoba 284 11 13 1
Saskatchewan 479 32 27 1
Alberta 290 12 22 2
British Columbia 297 16 32 11
Yukon 1956 22 91 0
Northwest Territories 2918 132 89 0
Nunavut 1640 114 26 0
Canada 194 12 17 5

Chart 4 end

Conversely, Ontario had the lowest rate of police-reported impaired driving incidents among the provinces in 2019 (104 per 100,000 population), followed by Quebec (176 incidents per 100,000 population). These provinces were the only ones to post a rate lower than the national average (228 incidents per 100,000 population). However, these differences among the provinces may in part be caused by differences in how police services report impaired driving data (see Text box 3).

All provinces reported an increase in the impaired driving rate in 2019, compared with the previous year. The largest increases were in the Atlantic provinces, where the rate increased by 95% in Newfoundland and Labrador, by 56% in Prince Edward Island and by 53% in New Brunswick. At the other end of the country, British Columbia also recorded a relatively sharp increase, with the impaired driving rate going up 45%. Saskatchewan (+1%), Ontario (+5%) and Quebec (+6%) had the smallest increases. These variations are largely reflective of trends in alcohol-impaired driving - including impaired driving involving a combination of alcohol and drugs – with the exception of Ontario, where both alcohol-impaired and drug-impaired driving went down. Ontario’s overall increase was attributable to a sharp increase in the number of incidents where the impairing substance was unspecified.

Despite these increases, half of the provinces recorded rates that were lower than 10 years prior. In 2019, only the Atlantic provinces and Manitoba had higher rates of impaired driving than in they did in 2009.

In the territories, impaired driving rates were significantly higher than in the provinces. With a rate nearly three times higher than that of Prince Edward Island, Nunavut (1,779 incidents per 100,000 population) had the lowest rate among all territories in 2019. Meanwhile, Yukon and the Northwest Territories reported rates of 2,068 and 3,139 incidents per 100,000 population, respectively (Table 1).

Police-reported impaired driving rates in the territories have significantly increased in recent years, a trend that began well before the new measures implemented in 2018. Compared with the police-reported rates in 2015, rates have increased by 71% in Yukon, by 159% in the Northwest Territories, and by 238% in Nunavut.

Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest drug-impaired driving rate among the provinces

In all provinces, alcohol is still involved in the vast majority of impaired driving incidents reported by police, and alcohol-related incidents are the biggest factor in the differences between the provinces. However, differences between the provinces in drug-impaired driving were also observed.

As with impaired driving as a whole, Ontario (6 incidents per 100,000 population), Manitoba (13) and Quebec (17) posted the lowest rates of drug-impaired driving or impaired driving because of a combination of alcohol and drugs in 2019 (Table 2, Chart 4). By contrast, Newfoundland and Labrador had the highest rate of drug-impaired driving (52 incidents per 100,000 population), followed by Prince Edward Island (48), New Brunswick (36), British Columbia (32) and Nova Scotia (31). These same provinces―with the exception of Prince Edward Island―had some of the highest proportions of cannabis use, as measured by the National Cannabis Survey (Rotermann 2020). However, Prince Edward Island (61 incidents per 100,000 population) and Saskatchewan (32) saw the highest rates of impaired driving due to a combination of alcohol and drugs.

In 2019, all provinces except Ontario (-5%) reported an increase in their rate of drug-impaired driving reported by police compared with the previous year. The largest increase was in British Columbia, where the rate more than doubled. As noted above, this increase may partly be due to better detection; since 2018, police have had additional means to detect and intercept drug-impaired drivers.

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Text box 3
Changes to the classification of founded incidents in the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey

In 2018, Statistics Canada, in collaboration with police services, updated the definition of “founded” and “unfounded” criminal incidents to reflect a more victim-centred approach to recording crimes that accounts for the complexities of certain offences, such as sexual assault, family violence and intimate partner violence. The purpose of the changes to these definitions was to begin including incidents where there is no credible evidence that the incident did not take place, as well as those based on reports by third parties (e.g., a road user reporting a potentially impaired driver), in “founded criminal incidents.”

With the new definition, police may clear more incidents as founded. Since official crime statistics reflect “founded” incidents, these changes to the definitions are likely to have had an upward impact on the number of police-reported impaired driving incidents.

Police services are gradually changing their reporting practices based on these new standards, but the progress of this transition can vary from one service to another. Because of this, some of the differences observed between regions may in part be caused by differences in the practices of reporting founded and cleared incidents. The table below shows the proportion of police-reported impaired driving incidents that were not cleared, by province.


Text box 3 table
Impaired driving incidents, by clearance status and province or territory, 2019
Table summary
This table displays the results of Impaired driving incidents. The information is grouped by Province or territory (appearing as row headers), Proportion of incidents not cleared, Percentage point change from 2018 and Percentage point change from 2009, calculated using percent and percentage points units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Province or territory Proportion of incidents not cleared Percentage point change from 2018 Percentage point change from 2009
percent percentage points
Newfoundland and Labrador 69 23 24
Prince Edward Island 67 12 40
Nova Scotia 44 12 16
New Brunswick 57 22 37
Quebec 4 1 1
Ontario 2 0 0
Manitoba 52 11 25
Saskatchewan 53 2 32
Alberta 46 6 19
British Columbia 41 28 33
Yukon 76 13 41
Northwest Territories 79 10 56
Nunavut 80 14 47
Canada 33 11 20

In addition to changes to the definitions of founded and unfounded incidents, new categories were added to the clearance status of an incident, including “open/still under investigation,” “insufficient evidence to proceed” and “victim/complainant declines to proceed.” Overall, 97% of impaired driving incidents not cleared were so because of insufficient evidence.

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Most census metropolitan areas had a lower rate of impaired driving than the national rate

In 2019, most census metropolitan areas (CMAs)Note  recorded impaired driving rates that were lower than the national rate (228 per 100,000 population). Of the 34 CMAs, only Moncton, Abbotsford–Mission, Lethbridge, Vancouver, Victoria, Halifax and Edmonton had an impaired driving rate greater than 228 incidents per 100,000 population (Table 3, Chart 5).

Chart 5 start

Chart 5 Rate of police-reported impaired driving, by substance causing impairment and census metropolitan area, 2019

Data table for Chart 5 
Data table for chart 5
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 5. The information is grouped by Census metropolitan area
(appearing as row headers), Alcohol, Alcohol and drugs, Drugs and Unspecified, calculated using rate per 100,000 population units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Census metropolitan areaData table for chart 5 Note 1 Data table for chart 5 Note 2 Data table for chart 5 Note 3
Alcohol Alcohol and drugs Drugs Unspecified
rate per 100,000 population
Moncton 442 21 67 0
Abbotsford–Mission 338 5 17 3
Lethbridge 202 12 34 38
Vancouver 206 10 23 14
Victoria 214 12 22 3
Halifax 214 0 8 15
Edmonton 204 6 22 2
Canada 194 12 17.2 4.7
St. John's 147 17 32 25
Kelowna 188 4 24 0
Sherbrooke 167 11 35 2
Saguenay 188 2 16 1
Saint John 179 3 4 1
Regina 152 20 8 3
Trois-Rivières 156 6 17 0
Saskatoon 148 21 8 0
Brantford 138 7 27 4
Québec 142 4 19 0
Barrie 128 19 5 12
Thunder BayData table for chart 5 Note 4 158 0 0 0
Belleville 107 34 4 9
GatineauData table for chart 5 Note 5 121 10 13 4
Montréal 118 6 14 0
Peterborough 109 18 8 3
Calgary 114 4 6 0
Grand Sudbury 87 25 3 4
St. Catharines–Niagara 83 13 8 0
Hamilton 79 6 10 5
Ottawa–Gatineau 79 7 9 3
London 76 7 10 2
Windsor 80 3 6 2
Guelph 78 1 5 3
Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo 63 2 9 12
OttawaData table for chart 5 Note 6 66 6 7 3
Winnipeg 68 3 3 1
Toronto 59 3 5 6
Kingston 36 6 2 5

Chart 5 end

With a rate of 529 incidents per 100,000 population, the Moncton CMA had by far the highest rate of police-reported incidents of impaired driving among the CMAs. Abbotsford–Mission was second, with 364 incidents per 100,000 population. The Moncton CMA had both the highest alcohol-impaired driving rate and the highest drug-impaired driving rate. Conversely, Kingston had the lowest rate of impaired driving among CMAs (49 incidents per 100,000 population), followed by Toronto (73), Winnipeg (76) and OttawaNote  (82).

A variety of factors may be behind the relatively low rates of impaired driving in the CMAs. In particular, the share of households with a vehicle in CMAs was lower than the share of households outside these areas.Note  In addition, the distances to travel in rural areas are generally longer, meaning that impaired drivers are on the road longer and the risk of accidents is higher. The availability of alternative transportation may also be more limited outside CMAs (Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction 2017; Robertson et al. 2016; Paré and Larochelle 2004).

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Text box 4
Impaired driving during the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic brought upheavals that are likely to impact a wide range of social issues, including impaired driving. For example, public health restrictions may cause stress and anxiety in many people, causing them to consume substances (including medication) more often or differently. In addition, alternatives to cars may not be as readily available or people may be reluctant to use them to avoid exposure to the virus (e.g., public transit). Driving conditions may also be different (Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction 2020b).

On the other hand, initial data seem to indicate that overall, there has not been a marked increase in alcohol consumption. The majority of Canadians do not appear to have changed their frequency of consumption, while the proportions of people who either increased or decreased their alcohol consumption are relatively similar (Statistics Canada 2021; Institut national de santé publique du Québec 2020). While stress and boredom were cited as reasons behind an increase in alcohol consumption, fewer opportunities to socialize led many people to consume less.

By contrast, those who increased the frequency of their consumption were more likely to report abuse, i.e., five alcoholic drinks on a single occasion. Cannabis users were also slightly more likely to report an increase in use (Statistics Canada 2021). In addition, most studies found that young adults—the group most at risk of impaired driving—were more likely to have increased their alcohol consumption or drug use since the start of the pandemic (Statistics Canada 2021; Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction 2020c; Institut national de santé publique du Québec 2020).

The Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics at Statistics Canada conducted a special collection of survey data from a sample of police services across Canada to measure the impacts of COVID-19 on selected types of crimes and calls for service, including certain offences related to impaired driving. The police services that responded to this survey serve 71% of the Canadian population.Note 

According to the data provided by the police services that responded, impaired driving was reported to have decreased during the pandemic. For the period from March 2020 to February 2021, these police services reported 57,115 incidents of impaired operation,Note  down 14% from the same period a year earlier. The decrease was even more pronounced when it came to impaired driving causing death or bodily harm: the number of these incidents reported by the police services participating in the survey fell 33% over the same period (Text box 4 chart). Although alcohol consumption does not appear to have changed significantly during the pandemic, changes in drinking habits—for example, drinking at home instead of at a bar or at a friend’s house—were likely to have decreased the number of impaired drivers on the road.

Text box 4 chart start

Text box 4 chart Impaired driving incidents reported by selected police services, before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, 2019 and 2020

Data table for Text box 4 chart 
Data table for chart 4 text box
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 4 text box. The information is grouped by Month (appearing as row headers), 2019 and 2020, calculated using number units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Month 2019 2020
number
March 5,492 4,247
April 5,301 3,735
May 5,741 5,194
June 6,534 5,823
July 6,751 6,673
August 6,987 6,251
September 5,579 5,533
October 5,357 4,986
November 5,219 4,296
December 5,336 4,110
JanuaryText box table 4 Note 1 4,229 3,598
FebruaryText box table 4 Note 1 4,653 3,079

Text box 4 chart end

End of text box 4

Just over half of all impaired driving incidents are cleared by charge

Just over half (56%) of impaired driving incidents reported by police in 2019 were cleared by chargeNote  (Chart 6). By contrast, 10% of impaired driving incidents were cleared without charge and 33% of incidents were not cleared (i.e., unresolved).

Chart 6 start

Chart 6 Police-reported impaired driving incidents, by clearance status and substance causing impairment, Canada, 2019

Data table for Chart 6 
Data table for chart 6
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 6 Impairing substance, Total impaired driving, Alcohol-impaired driving, Alcohol and drug impaired driving, Drug-impaired driving and Unspecified substance, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Impairing substance
Total impaired driving Alcohol-impaired driving Alcohol and drug impaired driving Drug-impaired driving Unspecified substance
percent
Incidents not cleared 33 31 44 46 35
Incidents cleared by charge 56 57 53 49 64
Incidents cleared otherwise 10 12 3 5 1

Chart 6 end

There are several reasons for which an incident of impaired driving may not be cleared. For example, at the time the information about the crime was submitted to Statistics Canada, police may not have completed their investigation (e.g., they may have been awaiting toxicology test results). It is also possible that, in some cases, police may not have sufficient evidence to clear the incident (e.g., when a credible source reports an impaired driver, but the driver could not be stopped).

Further, there are a number of reasons why police may choose not to lay criminal charges against an impaired driver, for example, if different blood alcohol readings give contradictory results, or if police had to interrupt the intervention to respond to a more urgent call. In certain cases, police may choose to deal with the incident under provincial laws. For example, British Columbia adopted amendments to its Motor Vehicle Act in September 2010 that allow for the immediate suspension of the licence of a driver suspected of driving with a blood alcohol level above 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood. In this province, the proportion of incidents cleared by criminal charges fell from 70% in 2009 to 18% in 2019.

Drug-impaired driving incidents were less likely to be cleared by charge

Incidents of drug-impaired driving and, to a lesser extent, impaired driving from a combination of alcohol and drugs, were slightly less likely to be cleared by charge than alcohol-impaired driving incidents or incidents of driving while impaired by an unspecified substance. To illustrate, in 2019, just under half (49%) of reported incidents of drug-impaired driving were cleared by charge.Note  A similar proportion (46%) of incidents was not cleared, and 5% were cleared without charge (Chart 6).

It may be more difficult to detect and prove impairment by drugs than by alcohol. While police are quite familiar with the signs of alcohol consumption, the signs of drug use may be more unfamiliar or harder to detect (Beirness and Porath 2019; Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction 2019).

Police usually have ready access to an approved screening device that can easily detect the presence and concentration of alcohol. However, drug screening devices are still relatively rare. In addition, while recent legislative amendments now permit police officers to demand a roadside breath sample in the absence of suspicion that a driver has alcohol in their body, reasonable suspicion is still required for an officer to demand a roadside sample of oral fluid. Lastly, the availability of evaluating officers can also be an issue, particularly in more remote or isolated regions (Public Safety Canada 2020; Asbridge and Ogilvie 2015).

The proportion of impaired driving incidents cleared by charge decreased in 2019

The proportion of incidents cleared by charge fell in 2019, compared with previous years (Chart 7). Overall, the proportion of incidents cleared by charge decreased from 64% to 56%, a 12% decline compared with 2018. The drop was even more pronounced (-27%) compared with 2009, when 78% of impaired driving incidents were cleared by charge.

This trend was observed for both alcohol-impaired driving and drug-impaired driving, for which rates of clearance by charge fell by 27%Note  and 11%, respectively), compared with 2009. In the case of drug-impaired driving, the overall trend prior to 2018 revealed a slow increase in the rate of incidents cleared by charge.

Chart 7 start

Chart 7 Police-reported impaired driving incidents, by clearance status and substance causing impairment, Canada, 2009 to 2019

Data table for Chart 7 
Data table for chart 7
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 7. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Cleared by charge (drugs), Cleared otherwise (drugs), Clearedby charge (alcohol) and Cleared otherwise (alcohol), calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year Cleared by charge (drugs) Cleared otherwise (drugs) Clearedby charge (alcohol)Data table for chart 7 Note 1 Cleared otherwise (alcohol)Data table for chart 7 Note 1
percent
2009 55 19 78 9
2010 52 22 75 12
2011 53 24 68 19
2012 58 18 71 14
2013 60 16 70 16
2014 56 15 70 15
2015 60 15 71 14
2016 62 13 70 14
2017 61 13 67 14
2018 61 10 64 14
2019 49 5 57 11

Chart 7 end

A decline in the proportion of incidents cleared by charge does not, however, translate into an equivalent increase in incidents cleared without charge. The proportion of incidents cleared without charge also fell, from 14% of police-reported impaired driving incidents in 2018 to 10% in 2019.

The decrease in the proportion of incidents either cleared by charge or without charge is mainly because of an increase in the proportion of incidents not cleared, which rose from 22% in 2018 to 33% of all police-reported incidents of impaired driving in 2019. Of these uncleared incidents, the vast majority (97%) could not be cleared because of insufficient evidence. Incidents that were still under investigation when the data were submitted to Statistics Canada represented 2% of impaired driving incidents that were not cleared. Changes to the definitions of founded and unfounded criminal incidents may have led to an increase in the number of uncleared incidents, which could, in large part, account for the decrease in the relative proportion of cleared incidents (see Text box 3).

Drug-impaired driving incidents take longer to be cleared

In addition to being slightly less likely to be cleared by charge, drug-impaired driving incidents are more likely to take a longer time to clear. While 76% of incidents of alcohol-impaired driving and 84% of impaired driving involving a combination of alcohol and drugs were cleared in one day or less in 2019, the same was true for the majority (59%) of drug impaired driving incidents (Chart 8).

Chart 8 start

Chart 8 Elapsed time between when impaired driving incidents came to the attention of police and when these incidents were cleared, by substance causing impairment, Canada, 2019

Data table for Chart 8 
Data table for chart 8
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 8 Substance causing impairment, Alcohol, Alcohol and drugs, Drugs and Unspecified, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Substance causing impairment
Alcohol Alcohol and drugs Drugs Unspecified
percent
One day or less 76 84 59 90
2 to 30 days 7 3 4 3
31 days or more 17 14 37 6

Chart 8 end

By contrast, nearly 4 in 10 incidents (37%) of drug-impaired driving that were cleared took 31 or more days. By comparison, 17% of alcohol-impaired driving incidents and 14% of impaired driving incidents involving a combination of alcohol and drugs required 31 or more days to be cleared (Chart 8).

The time required to clear certain incidents may be an indicator of their complexity. It is generally accepted that it is harder to detect and prove impairment by drugs than by alcohol (Public Safety Canada 2020; Beirness and Porath 2019; Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction 2019). In addition, police sometimes encounter delays with toxicology tests. The laboratory of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police responsible for conducting toxicology tests saw an increase in funding in order to increase its capacity (Public Safety Canada 2020).

In addition to requiring more time to be cleared than other impaired driving incidents, the length of time required to clear drug-impaired driving incidents has increased since 2009. The average time required to clear a drug-impaired driving incident has nearly tripled since 2009, while it has remained almost unchanged for alcohol-impaired driving (Chart 9). During this period, the proportion of drug-impaired driving incidents that were cleared in one day or less fell from 75% to 59%. Meanwhile, the proportion of incidents that required at least 90 days to clear tripled over the same period, from 10% to 29%.

Chart 9 start

Chart 9 Average elapsed time between when impaired driving incidents came to the attention of police and when these incidents were cleared, by substance causing impairment, Canada, 2009 to 2019

Data table for Chart 9 
Data table for chart 9
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 9. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Alcohol and Drugs, calculated using average elapsed time (days) units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year AlcoholData table for chart 9 Note 1 Drugs
average elapsed time (days)
2009 16.7 21.2
2010 17.1 19.9
2011 14.6 30.1
2012 15.3 40.7
2013 14.2 39.4
2014 14.9 39.8
2015 15.5 42.0
2016 16.5 43.3
2017 16.8 45.5
2018 16.6 49.7
2019 15.6 56.2

Chart 9 end

Few charges laid under new per se limits for drug-impaired driving

One of the new legislative measures enacted in 2018 involved the addition of offences to the Criminal Code that established per se limits for certain drugs (see Text box 1 and Text box 2). A per se limit allows charges to be laid without proof of impairment of driving ability being necessary, when it has been established that an amount of an intoxicating substance is present in the body beyond a predetermined limit. A well-known per se limit (80 mg/100 ml of blood, or more commonly .08) has been in force for alcohol since 1969.

However, data from 2019 show that these new provisions were rarely used to lay or recommend charges. In 2019, charges under section 320.14(1)(c) of the Criminal Code—the paragraph dealing with the per se limits of drugs—were laid against about 1 in 6 alleged drug-impaired drivers (17%). This proportion was even lower with respect to section 320.14(1)(d), which deals with the per se limits for impaired driving incidents involving a combination of alcohol and drugs: charges under this section were laid against 1% of drivers accused of impairment by a combination of alcohol and drugs. By comparison, section 320.14(1)(b) on the per se limit for alcohol (80 mg/100 ml of blood) was invoked for 75% of alcohol-impaired drivers (Chart 10).

Chart 10 start

Chart 10 Charges laid or recommended by police against persons accused of impaired driving, by substance causing impairment, Canada, 2019

Data table for Chart 10 
Data table for chart 10
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 10. The information is grouped by Sections of the Criminal Code of Canada (CCC) or Acts under which charges were laid (appearing as row headers), Alcohol, Alcohol and drugs and Drugs, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Sections of the Criminal Code of Canada (CCC) or Acts under which charges were laidData table for chart 10 Note 1
Alcohol Alcohol and drugs Drugs
percent
CCC 320.14 (1)(a) 68 86 67
CCC 320.14 (1)(b) 75 24 1
CCC 320.14 (1)(c) 0 1 17
CCC 320.14 (1)(d) 0 1 0
CCC 320.14 (2) (3) 1 0 1
CCC 320.14 (4) 0 0 0
CCC 320.14 n.s.Data table for chart 10 Note 2 0 0 1
CCC 320.15 12 25 10
CCC - Other traffic violationsData table for chart 10 Note 3 8 7 11
CCC - Other violationsData table for chart 10 Note 4 7 13 17
Legislation specific to drugsData table for chart 10 Note 5 1 8 12
Provincial statuteData table for chart 10 Note 6 20 20 18
Other federal statute 0 0 0

Chart 10 end

The majority (between 67% and 86%, depending on the substance) of impaired drivers were charged under section 320.14(1)(a), the paragraph that deals with impaired driving in general without setting a per se limit. Also, many drug-impaired drivers were charged with a Criminal Code offence other than a traffic violation (17%), a federal drug offence (12%), such as the Cannabis Act, or a provincial offence (18%).

Although charges under per se limits are rare in drug-impaired driving incidents, these charges are likely to become more frequent as detection capabilities are improved and deployed.

Start of text box 5

Text box 5
Drug Evaluation and Classification Program

The Drug Evaluation and Classification Program (DECP) is a 12-step systematic, standardized procedure used in the United States and Canada to reliably evaluate drug-impaired drivers. In Canada, the DECP was implemented in 2008 along with other legislative amendments to provide new tools to facilitate investigations into drug-impaired driving. From that point on, police could administer a Standardized Field Sobriety Test to drivers suspected of impairment, as well as an evaluation by a drug recognition expert. The latter conduct the DECP evaluation, which provides the results that can be used as evidence of impaired driving.

Along with the legislative amendments to impaired driving in 2018, the government announced an investment of $161 million over five years to address impaired driving, part of which is for police training. During the 2018/2019 fiscal year, 4,725 police officers received training on the physical coordination test, 3,439 completed refresher training, and an additional 604 drug recognition experts were trained (see Text box table).


Text box 5 table
Number of police officers who successfully completed Standardized Field Sobriety Test or Drug Recognition Expert training, by province, 2018/2019
Table summary
This table displays the results of Number of police officers who successfully completed Standardized Field Sobriety Test or Drug Recognition Expert training. The information is grouped by Province (appearing as row headers), Police officers who successfully completed Standardized Field Sobriety Test training, Police officers who successfully completed Standardized Field Sobriety Test refresher training and Police officers who successfully completed Drug Recognition Expert training, calculated using number units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Province Police officers who successfully completed Standardized Field Sobriety Test training Police officers who successfully completed Standardized Field Sobriety Test refresher training Police officers who successfully completed Drug Recognition Expert training
number
Newfoundland and LabradorText box 5 table Note 1 50 12 5
Prince Edward Island 39 5 5
Nova Scotia 31 11 16
New Brunswick 119 24 8
QuebecText box 5 table Note 2 438 2,282 52
OntarioText box 5 table Note 3 3,401 1,000 419
Manitoba 76 6 11
Saskatchewan 33 6 17
Alberta 394 15 47
British Columbia 144 78 24
CanadaText box 5 table Note 4 4,725 3,439 604

End of text box 5

Rate of alcohol-impaired driving among young drivers falls sharply

Most drivers accused of impaired driving are men and young adults. In 2019, men represented 77% of those charged with alcohol-impaired driving or impaired driving involving a combination of alcohol and drugs. However, this proportion has decreased since 2009, when men accounted for 84% of persons charged. In 1986, 92% of persons charged with impaired driving were men.

The situation is similar among young drivers. While drivers aged 20 to 34 represent only about a quarter of licensed drivers, in 2019 they accounted for 44% of drivers accused of alcohol impairment or impairment caused by a combination of alcohol and drugs. However, it was among young drivers that the biggest decreases were observed, compared with 2009. Although the rate of alcohol-impaired driving has been falling in all age groups since 2009 (-39% overall), the declines have been the greatest among licensed drivers under 20 years (-71%), and between 20 and 24 years (-53%) (Chart 11).

Chart 11 start

Chart 11 Persons accused of alcohol-impaired driving (or impairment caused by a combination of alcohol and drugs), by age group, Canada, 2009 and 2019

Data table for Chart 11 
Data table for chart 11
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 11. The information is grouped by Age group (years) (appearing as row headers), Year, 2009 and 2019, calculated using rate per 100,000 licensed drivers units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Age group (years) Year
2009 2019
rate per 100,000 licensed drivers
Under 16 186 44
16 to 19 505 145
20 to 24 738 349
25 to 34 502 342
35 to 44 346 257
45 to 54 267 176
55 to 64 142 118
65 and older 52 43
Total 322 195

Chart 11 end

Awareness campaigns, which often target the groups most at risk, may have contributed to the decrease in impaired driving rates. Moreover, with respect to the declines observed among young drivers, it should be noted that all provinces now have zero tolerance for drinking and driving among young and new drivers (Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction 2020a).

Drug-impaired driving increases in all age groups

The majority of alcohol-impaired drivers are men and young adults, and the same is true for drug-impaired driving. In 2019, men represented 77% of those charged with drug-impaired driving, a proportion nevertheless lower than 81% in 2009.

Additionally, young drivers aged 20 to 34 had the highest rates of drug-impaired driving. Although they account for about one-quarter of licensed drivers, they made up just under half (44%) of those accused of drug-impaired driving. These data corroborate the results of the National Cannabis Survey, which indicate that men and young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to use cannabis than women or older Canadians. Moreover, among cannabis users, men were more likely than women to report driving within two hours of using cannabis. Similarly, young people and men were more likely to report being a passenger in a vehicle driven by a person who had used cannabis (Rotermann 2020).

From 2009 to 2019, the drug-impaired driving rate doubled among drivers aged 20 to 24 (from 11 to 22 incidents per 100,000 licensed drivers) and tripled among those aged 25 to 34 (from 8 to 24 incidents per 100,000 licensed drivers) (Chart 12). However, the rate of drug-impaired driving increased in all age groups, with the largest increases observed among drivers aged 35 to 44 (+281%) and 55 to 64 (+292%).

Chart 12 start

Chart 12 Persons accused of drug-impaired driving, by age group, Canada, 2009 and 2019

Data table for Chart 12 
Data table for chart 12
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 12. The information is grouped by Age group (years) (appearing as row headers), Year, 2009 and 2019, calculated using rate per 100,000 licensed drivers units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Age group (years) Year
2009 2019
rate per 100,000 licensed drivers
Under 20 11 20
20 to 24 11 22
25 to 34 8 24
35 to 44 5 20
45 to 54 4 10
55 to 64 1 5
65 and older 1 1
Total 5 13

Chart 12 end

Conversely, the smallest increase was noted among drivers under the age of 20 (+90%). Most provinces expanded their zero-tolerance policy for young and new drivers to include drugs. In addition, a significant portion of the preventive measures brought in with the legalization of cannabis was directed at social media-based awareness campaigns and education campaigns in high schools (Public Safety Canada 2020).

Alcohol-impaired driving peaks at night on weekends, but not drug-impaired driving

The number of alcohol-impaired driving incidents peaks on weekends between 2:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. In 2019, close to half (44%) of incidents of alcohol-impaired driving occurred on a Saturday or Sunday and nearly one-third (32%) occurred between 11:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m., regardless of the day (Chart 13).

Chart 13 start

Chart 13 Police-reported impaired driving incidents, by day, time of day and substance causing impairment, Canada, 2019

Data table for Chart 13 
Data table for chart 13
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 13 Alcohol, Drugs and Alcohol and drugs, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Alcohol Drugs Alcohol and drugs
percent
Monday 12 a.m. 0.8 0.5 0.8
1 a.m. 0.6 0.5 0.7
2 a.m. 0.6 0.4 0.6
3 a.m. 0.4 0.4 0.2
4 a.m. 0.2 0.3 0.3
5 a.m. 0.1 0.2 0.1
6 a.m. 0.1 0.3 0.2
7 a.m. 0.1 0.4 0.2
8 a.m. 0.1 0.4 0.2
9 a.m. 0.2 0.4 0.2
10 a.m. 0.2 0.4 0.3
11 a.m. 0.2 0.6 0.2
12 p.m. 0.2 0.8 0.4
1 p.m. 0.3 0.5 0.4
2 p.m. 0.3 0.5 0.6
3 p.m. 0.4 0.8 0.6
4 p.m. 0.5 0.8 0.6
5 p.m. 0.5 0.6 0.6
6 p.m. 0.5 0.6 0.6
7 p.m. 0.5 0.5 0.6
8 p.m. 0.6 0.8 0.9
9 p.m. 0.7 0.7 0.8
10 p.m. 0.6 0.6 0.7
11 p.m. 0.6 0.7 0.6
Tuesday 12:00 a.m. 0.6 0.3 0.6
1 a.m. 0.6 0.5 0.6
2 a.m. 0.5 0.3 0.3
3 a.m. 0.4 0.3 0.4
4 a.m. 0.2 0.2 0.2
5 a.m. 0.1 0.1 0.1
6 a.m. 0.1 0.3 0.1
7 a.m. 0.1 0.2 0.3
8 a.m. 0.1 0.5 0.2
9 a.m. 0.1 0.4 0.3
10 a.m. 0.2 0.4 0.3
11 a.m. 0.2 0.7 0.2
12 p.m. 0.2 0.5 0.3
1 p.m. 0.3 0.8 0.4
2 p.m. 0.3 0.5 0.4
3 p.m. 0.4 0.8 0.5
4 p.m. 0.4 0.9 0.8
5 p.m. 0.5 0.8 0.7
6 p.m. 0.5 0.6 0.7
7 p.m. 0.6 0.6 0.6
8 p.m. 0.7 0.6 0.7
9 p.m. 0.7 0.7 0.8
10 p.m. 0.7 0.7 0.8
11 p.m. 0.7 0.5 0.7
Wednesday 12 a.m. 0.6 0.5 0.6
1 a.m. 0.6 0.5 0.4
2 a.m. 0.5 0.4 0.5
3 a.m. 0.3 0.3 0.3
4 a.m. 0.2 0.3 0.1
5 a.m. 0.1 0.2 0.1
6 a.m. 0.1 0.2 0.1
7 a.m. 0.1 0.5 0.3
8 a.m. 0.1 0.6 0.3
9 a.m. 0.2 0.4 0.1
10 a.m. 0.2 0.4 0.4
11 a.m. 0.2 0.5 0.3
12 p.m. 0.2 0.9 0.4
1 p.m. 0.3 0.5 0.4
2 p.m. 0.3 0.9 0.6
3 p.m. 0.4 0.6 0.4
4 p.m. 0.4 1.0 0.6
5 p.m. 0.5 0.9 0.5
6 p.m. 0.5 0.6 0.7
7 p.m. 0.6 0.8 0.7
8 p.m. 0.7 0.6 0.8
9 p.m. 0.8 0.6 0.7
10 p.m. 0.8 0.7 0.8
11 p.m. 0.8 0.8 0.8
Thursday 12 a.m. 0.8 0.6 0.5
1 a.m. 0.7 0.7 0.6
2 a.m. 0.7 0.5 0.6
3 a.m. 0.5 0.3 0.5
4 a.m. 0.2 0.2 0.3
5 a.m. 0.1 0.2 0.2
6 a.m. 0.1 0.2 0.2
7 a.m. 0.1 0.4 0.2
8 a.m. 0.1 0.6 0.2
9 a.m. 0.2 0.5 0.4
10 a.m. 0.2 0.7 0.4
11 a.m. 0.2 0.7 0.4
12 p.m. 0.2 0.7 0.4
1 p.m. 0.3 0.7 0.6
2 p.m. 0.3 0.8 0.5
3 p.m. 0.5 0.9 0.6
4 p.m. 0.5 0.8 0.6
5 p.m. 0.6 0.9 0.8
6 p.m. 0.6 0.8 0.6
7 p.m. 0.7 0.7 0.8
8 p.m. 0.8 0.7 0.9
9 p.m. 0.9 0.8 1.1
10 p.m. 1.0 0.8 0.9
11 p.m. 1.1 0.5 0.9
Friday 12 a.m. 1.0 0.5 0.8
1 a.m. 1.1 0.5 0.8
2 a.m. 1.0 0.3 0.9
3 a.m. 0.8 0.5 0.5
4 a.m. 0.3 0.1 0.3
5 a.m. 0.2 0.2 0.3
6 a.m. 0.2 0.3 0.3
7 a.m. 0.1 0.3 0.3
8 a.m. 0.1 0.5 0.2
9 a.m. 0.2 0.4 0.3
10 a.m. 0.2 0.7 0.4
11 a.m. 0.2 0.6 0.3
12 p.m. 0.3 0.7 0.3
1 p.m. 0.3 0.7 0.5
2 p.m. 0.4 0.7 0.5
3 p.m. 0.5 0.9 0.8
4 p.m. 0.6 1.0 0.8
5 p.m. 0.7 0.8 0.8
6 p.m. 0.8 0.7 1.0
7 p.m. 0.9 0.9 1.0
8 p.m. 1.2 1.0 1.1
9 p.m. 1.4 0.9 1.1
10 p.m. 1.7 1.0 1.4
11 p.m. 1.8 1.2 1.3
Saturday 12 a.m. 2.0 0.9 1.4
1 a.m. 2.4 0.7 1.6
2 a.m. 2.5 0.8 1.6
3 a.m. 1.9 0.7 1.6
4 a.m. 0.9 0.5 0.7
5 a.m. 0.5 0.4 0.6
6 a.m. 0.3 0.3 0.2
7 a.m. 0.3 0.4 0.3
8 a.m. 0.3 0.4 0.6
9 a.m. 0.3 0.6 0.6
10 a.m. 0.3 0.6 0.4
11 a.m. 0.4 0.6 0.4
12 p.m. 0.4 0.6 0.4
1 p.m. 0.5 0.7 0.6
2 p.m. 0.5 0.7 0.6
3 p.m. 0.6 0.9 0.7
4 p.m. 0.7 1.2 0.7
5 p.m. 0.9 0.8 1.0
6 p.m. 0.9 0.9 0.9
7 p.m. 1.1 0.8 0.9
8 p.m. 1.2 0.9 1.0
9 p.m. 1.6 0.9 1.3
10 p.m. 1.7 1.1 1.6
11 p.m. 1.9 0.8 1.2
Sunday 12 a.m. 1.9 0.9 1.3
1 a.m. 2.3 0.6 1.4
2 a.m. 2.5 0.8 1.6
3 a.m. 1.9 0.6 1.2
4 a.m. 0.9 0.4 0.5
5 a.m. 0.5 0.2 0.5
6 a.m. 0.3 0.3 0.5
7 a.m. 0.3 0.4 0.3
8 a.m. 0.2 0.4 0.3
9 a.m. 0.3 0.4 0.2
10 a.m. 0.3 0.4 0.2
11 a.m. 0.3 0.6 0.4
12 p.m. 0.3 0.7 0.3
1 p.m. 0.4 0.5 0.5
2 p.m. 0.5 0.6 0.4
3 p.m. 0.6 0.6 0.8
4 p.m. 0.7 0.9 0.6
5 p.m. 0.7 0.9 0.8
6 p.m. 0.7 0.7 0.7
7 p.m. 0.9 0.7 1.0
8 p.m. 1.0 0.5 1.0
9 p.m. 1.0 0.7 0.9
10 p.m. 0.9 0.6 0.7
11 p.m. 0.9 0.6 0.6

Chart 13 end

Incidents of drug-impaired driving do not follow this pattern. About one in six incidents (17%) of drug-impaired driving occurred on a Saturday and 14% occurred on a Sunday, proportions relatively similar to those observed on any other day of the week. In addition, in 2019, the largest number of drug-impaired driving incidents were recorded between 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. (7%). However, the proportion of impaired driving incidents that occurred between 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. (23%) was not much higher than for incidents that occurred between 7:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. (21%), 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. (18%) or 11:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. (17%).

Targeting known peak periods has been one of the most effective ways to combat drinking and driving (Éduc’alcool 2010). However, the lack of a clear peak period for drug-impaired driving could pose an additional challenge for enforcement.

Incidents of alcohol-impaired and drug-impaired driving in criminal court

In 2018/2019, impaired driving was the second most common offence in cases completed by adult criminal courts. In addition, according to a recent study, impaired driving incidents were most likely to exceed the processing time limits imposed by the Jordan decision (Karam et al. 2020). A previous report on impaired driving prepared by Statistics Canada’s Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics also revealed that drug-impaired driving incidents took about twice as long to be processed as alcohol-impaired driving incidents (Perreault 2016).

Because there has been an increase in the number of drug-impaired driving incidents reported by police, and because new legislation was enacted in the wake of the legalization of recreational cannabis in 2018, tracking trends in cases of impaired driving has become increasingly relevant. As a result, the 2016 study is being updated to provide a current portrait of how criminal courts process impaired driving incidents, whether it involves alcohol- or drug-impaired driving.

Compared with the 2016 study, a category was added to enable analysis of trends in cases of impaired driving involving both alcohol and drugs. This offence category did not exist before 2018. However, police could enter more than one offence code for the same incident, including a code for alcohol-impaired driving and another for drug-impaired driving (see notes 5 and 6). Although this methodology likely resulted in an underestimation of the number of these incidents prior to 2018, the analysis of their characteristics may still inform us about the various paths these cases took through the courts.

The median time for completing drug-impaired driving cases decreased in 2018/2019

For the first time in four years, the median time for completing drug-impaired driving cases decreased in 2018/2019, falling from 246.5 days in 2017/2018 to 211 days (-14%). However, this decline follows an 8% increase observed in the previous year (Chart 14).

Chart 14 start

Chart 14 Median length of impaired driving cases in criminal courts, by substance causing impairment, Canada, 2010/2011 to 2018/2019

Data table for Chart 14 
Data table for chart 14
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 14. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Alcohol, Alcohol and drugs, Drugs and All Criminal Code offences, excluding traffic violations, calculated using median length (in days)
units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year Alcohol Alcohol and drugs Drugs All Criminal Code offences, excluding traffic violationsData table for chart 14 Note 1
median length (in days)
2010/2011 106 50 190 113
2011/2012 116 64 208 113
2012/2013 110 89 231 116
2013/2014 146 57 247 120
2014/2015 113 79 223 121
2015/2016 103 82 224 125
2016/2017 114 90 228 134
2017/2018 119 85 247 135
2018/2019 115 64 211 139

Chart 14 end

Despite the decrease, the median time for completing drug-impaired driving cases is still almost twice the median time for completing cases of alcohol-impaired driving (115 days), which also fell slightly in 2018/2019 (-3%).

The number of court appearances required to complete a drug-impaired driving case is also higher than what is required for cases involving alcohol, which may account for the longer processing times. In 2018/2019, drug-related cases required an average of 7.8 court appearances, compared with 5.5 court appearances for alcohol-related cases. Furthermore, the average number of court appearances is relatively similar when considering the entire period from 2010/2011 to 2018/2019 (7.7 court appearances for drug related cases and 5.2 court appearances for alcohol-related cases) (Table 4).

Although cases of drug-impaired driving take longer to process, it is quite different when the case involves a combination of alcohol and drugs. In 2018/2019, these cases required a median time of 64 days to be processed, also down from the previous year (-25%).

Notably, the median processing time declined for all types of impaired driving cases, while the median processing time rose 3% for all other criminal incidents (excluding traffic offences).Note  However, the processing time for each type of impaired driving case remained higher than in 2010/2011.

Although the median time for processing impaired driving cases is longer when drug impairment rather than alcohol impairment is involved, drug-related cases usually include fewer charges. For the period from 2010/2011 to 2018/2019, the majority (62%) of drug-impaired driving cases included only one charge. By comparison, most alcohol-related cases had two charges.

As indicated previously, alcohol-impaired driving incidents often lead to charges under the section in the Criminal Code which deals with impaired driving in general and under the section which establishes the per se limit for alcohol, while drug-impaired driving incidents mostly lead to charges only under the first section.

In all provinces, drug-impaired driving cases take longer to be processed

In all provinces and territories, cases of drug-impaired driving require more time to be processed than cases of alcohol-impaired driving. In all provinces except Alberta, the median time required to complete these cases surpassed the median time for all adult criminal incidents in 2018/2019. However, there are significant provincial variations in the median time required to process drug-impaired driving cases.

Prince Edward Island has the shortest median time to complete impaired driving cases (64 days for the period from 2010/2011 to 2018/2019). However, it also has the biggest gap—proportionally speaking—between the median time to process alcohol-related cases and drug-related cases. It should be noted that the median time to process a case of alcohol-impaired driving is only one day in Prince Edward Island, much less than the median of 30 days in Saskatchewan, the province with the second-shortest processing time (Chart 15).

Chart 15 start

Chart 15 Median length of impaired driving cases in criminal courts, by substance causing impairment and jurisdiction,  2010/2011 to 2018/2019

Data table for Chart 15 
Data table for chart 15
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 15. The information is grouped by Jurisdiction
(appearing as row headers), Criminal Code, excluding traffic violations (2018/2019), Alcohol, Drugs and Alcohol and drugs, calculated using median length (in days) units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Jurisdiction
Criminal Code, excluding traffic violations (2018/2019)Data table for chart 15 Note 1 Alcohol Drugs Alcohol and drugs
median length (in days)
Newfoundland and Labrador 206 79 235 85
Prince Edward Island 51 1 64 8
Nova Scotia 189 48 232 112
New Brunswick 134 94 190 127
Quebec 163 229 288 271
Ontario 138 94 214 65
Manitoba 140 91 302 50
Saskatchewan 85 30 107 39
Alberta 141 99 133 86
British Columbia 120 267 275 274
Territories 101 37 92 53
Canada 139 114 225 71

Chart 15 end

British Columbia, Quebec and Alberta are the only provinces where the median processing time for drug-impaired driving cases were not at least twice the time required for alcohol-related cases during the period from 2010/2011 to 2018/2019. In British Columbia and Quebec, it is not so much because the cases of drug-impaired driving were processed quickly, but rather because the median time for processing all types of impaired driving cases was well above the national average. Only Manitoba had a median time for processing drug-impaired driving cases that was greater than in Quebec or British Columbia.

Moreover, cases of impaired driving involving a combination of alcohol and drugs, as a whole, had a shorter median time than other types of impaired driving cases. However, this is mainly because of the shorter median times for these cases in Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta. In all the other provinces and territories, cases involving a combination of alcohol and drugs had a median processing time above the time required for cases involving alcohol for the period from 2010/2011 to 2018/2019.

Cases of drug-impaired driving are less likely to result in a guilty verdict than cases of alcohol-impaired driving

The greater complexity of incidents of drug-impaired driving compared with alcohol-impaired driving incidents is also reflected in the fact that drug-related cases are less likely to result in a guilty finding. During the period from 2010/2011 to 2018/2019, around 82% of alcohol-impaired driving cases resulted in a guilty finding, compared with 64% of drug-impaired driving cases (Chart 16). Moreover, this gap is observed even when only considering cases where a “not guilty” plea was entered. Among these cases, 41% of those involving alcohol resulted in a guilty finding, compared with 30% of drug-related cases (Table 4).

Chart 16 start

Chart 16 Proportion of impaired driving cases cleared by criminal courts that resulted in a guilty finding, by substance causing impairment and jurisdiction, 2010/2011 to 2018/2019

Data table for Chart 16 
Data table for chart 16
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 16. The information is grouped by Jurisdiction (appearing as row headers), Alcohol, Drugs and Alcohol and drugs, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Jurisdiction Alcohol Drugs Alcohol and drugs
percent
Newfoundland and Labrador 87 59 83
Prince Edward Island 93 73 90
Nova Scotia 88 52 76
New Brunswick 88 69 84
Quebec 89 81 85
Ontario 80 59 83
Manitoba 88 52 90
Saskatchewan 88 69 86
Alberta 70 52 67
British Columbia 85 68 100
Territories 91 57 90
Canada 82 64 78

Chart 16 end

However, the proportion of drug-impaired driving cases resulting in a guilty finding seems to be on the rise. In 2010/2011, this proportion was 64%, compared to 70% in 2018/2019 (Table 4).

In all the provinces, drug-impaired driving cases were slightly less likely to result in a guilty finding than cases of alcohol-impaired driving. In Nova Scotia, Alberta, and Manitoba (52% each), cases of drug-impaired driving were least likely to result in a guilty finding. Quebec (81%) and Prince Edward Island (73%) had the highest proportions of drug-impaired driving cases that resulted in a guilty verdict during the period from 2010/2011 to 2018/2019 (Chart 16).

The proportion of alcohol-impaired driving cases that resulted in a guilty finding varied much less from province to province, ranging from 70% in Alberta to 93% in Prince Edward Island.

Fine, seizure order or prohibition order are the most common sentences

Over the period from 2010/2011 to 2018/2019, the sentences handed down most often in both alcohol- and drug-impaired driving cases were fines, seizure orders or prohibition orders (in about 9 in 10 guilty cases (Chart 17). Given that both of these offences carry a minimum penalty comprising a $1,000 fine and a one-year driving ban, these penalties could be expected to be handed down most often.

Chart 17 start

Chart 17 Impaired driving cases that resulted in a guilty finding, by selected sentences and substance causing impairment, 2010/2011 to 2018/2019

Data table for Chart 17 
Data table for chart 17
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 17 Type of sentence, Fine, Prohibition order, Probation, Imprisonment and Absolute or conditional discharge, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Type of sentence
Fine Prohibition order Probation Imprisonment Absolute or conditional discharge
percent
Alcohol 89 90 11 9 1
Drugs 88 92 15 8 2
Alcohol and drugs 84 92 12 11 2

Chart 17 end

Conversely, it was quite rare for a custody sentence to be handed down. Fewer than 1 in 10 cases of impaired driving—whether by alcohol or by drugs—resulted in a custody sentence. However, cases of impaired driving involving both alcohol and drugs were slightly more likely to result in a custody sentence (11%) during the period studied.

Fines for drug-impaired driving are on average slightly lower than those for alcohol-impaired driving

On average, drug-impaired driving cases resulting in a fine between 2010/2011 and 2018/2019 had slightly lower fines than alcohol-impaired driving cases. The average fine for drug-impaired driving was $1,177, compared with an average of $1,267 for alcohol-impaired driving (Table 4). More specifically, fines exceeded $1,000 in close to 6 in 10 alcohol-impaired driving cases (57%), compared with about 4 in 10 (42%) drug-impaired driving cases (Chart 18).

Chart 18 start

Chart 18 Impaired driving cases that resulted in a guilty finding and where the sentence was a fine, by amount of fine and substance causing impairment, Canada, 2010/2011 to 2018/2019

Data table for Chart 18 
Data table for chart 18
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 18. The information is grouped by Amount of fine (appearing as row headers), Alcohol, Drugs and Alcohol and drugs, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Amount of fine Alcohol Drugs Alcohol and drugs
percent
$500 or less 1 3 1
$501 to $1,000 42 55 39
$1,001 to $1,500 43 34 45
More than $1,500 14 9 16

Chart 18 end

However, cases of impaired driving involving a combination of alcohol and drugs were most likely to result in relatively high fines. Just over 1 in 6 cases of impaired driving involving a combination of alcohol and drugs (61%) resulted in a fine of more than $1,000 during the period from 2010/2011 to 2018/2019, with an average fine of $1,299.

A number of factors can affect the sentence or sentences handed down. Judges must take into consideration the key principles for sentencing, such as the seriousness of the offence, the damage caused, and the accused’s history. The Criminal Code also sets out heavier minimum sentences in repeat cases of impaired driving, including jail time.

Summary

Over the last few decades, significant progress has been made with respect to impaired driving. Since 1986, the impaired driving rate has fallen by 60% and the rate of impaired driving causing death has dropped 77%. However, impaired driving remains the second-leading criminal cause of death—after homicide—and continues to result in hundreds of injured victims each year. It is also the second most common offence processed by adult criminal courts and the offence most likely to exceed the time limits imposed by the Jordan decision.

In 2018, the legalization of recreational cannabis raised some concerns about drug-impaired driving. At the same time as legalization, the Government of Canada began revising the provisions of the Criminal Code dealing with impaired driving, namely by creating new offences and expanding the powers of police to detect impairment.

In 2019, the rate of police-reported incidents of impaired driving (228 per 100,000 population) was up 19% from the previous year. More precisely, alcohol-impaired driving increased by 15% while drug-impaired driving increased 43%.Drug-impaired driving incidents accounted for 8% of all police-reported impaired driving incidents in 2019.

Among the provinces, Ontario saw the lowest rates of both alcohol- and drug-impaired driving. Meanwhile, Prince Edward Island had the highest rate of alcohol-impaired driving, while Newfoundland and Labrador had the highest rate of drug-impaired driving. Among the 34 census metropolitan areas (CMAs), only Moncton, Abbotsford–Mission, Lethbridge, Vancouver, Victoria, Halifax and Edmonton had impaired driving rates higher than the national average in 2019.

Compared with alcohol-impaired driving incidents, incidents of drug-impaired driving take longer to be cleared and are less likely to be cleared by charge. In addition, incidents of impaired driving processed by criminal courts take about twice as long to be completed when they involve drugs and they are less likely to result in a guilty finding. However, the median time needed to complete cases of drug-impaired driving improved, falling from 246.5 days in 2017/2018 to 211 days in 2018/2019.

Detailed data tables

Table 1 Police-reported impaired driving incidents, by type of offence and province or territory, 2019

Table 2 Police-reported impaired driving incidents, by substance causing impairment, type of offence and province or territory, 2019

Table 3 Police-reported impaired driving incidents, by substance causing impairment and census metropolitan area, 2019

Table 4 Selected characteristics of impaired driving cases completed by criminal courts, by alcohol impairment, drug impairment or impairment by a combination of alcohol and drugs, Canada, 2018/2019 and 2010/2011 to 2018/2019

Survey description

Uniform Crime Reporting Survey

The Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Survey was established in 1962 with the co-operation and assistance of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. The UCR was designed to measure criminal incidents that have been reported to federal, provincial/territorial and municipal police services in Canada.

For an incident to be counted in the crime statistics it must be recorded as “founded” as opposed to “unfounded.” An incident is “founded” if, after police investigation it has been determined that the reported offence did occur or was attempted or there is no credible evidence to confirm that the reported incident did not take place. This includes third-party reports that fit these criteria. A criminal incident involves one or more related offences that are committed during a single criminal event and have been reported to police. Police services can report up to four violations for each incident; however, this has typically only been the practice since the late 1980s and not for all police services. In order to ensure comparability, counts presented in this article are based on the most serious offence in the incident as determined by a standard classification rule used by all police services.

Integrated Criminal Court Survey

The Integrated Criminal Court Survey (ICCS) is administered by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (Statistics Canada) in collaboration with provincial and territorial government departments responsible for criminal courts in Canada. The survey collects statistical information on adult and youth court cases involving Criminal Code and other federal statute offences.

All youth courts in Canada have reported data to the youth component of the survey since the 1991/1992 fiscal year. All adult courts have reported to the adult component of the survey since the 2006/2007 fiscal year, with the exception of superior courts in Prince Edward Island (years before 2018/2019), Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan as well as municipal courts in Quebec. These data were not available for extraction from the provinces' electronic reporting systems and therefore, were not reported to the survey.

The primary unit of analysis is a case. A case is defined as one or more charges against an accused person or company that were processed by the courts at the same time and received a final decision. A case combines all charges against the same person having one or more key overlapping dates (date of offence, date of initiation, date of first appearance, date of decision, or date of sentencing) into a single case.

Cases are counted according to the fiscal year in which they are completed. Each year, the ICCS database is considered final at the end of March for the production of court statistics pertaining to the preceding fiscal year.

Combined file of the Integrated Criminal Court Survey and Uniform Crime Reporting Survey

For this report, the data from the ICSS and the UCR were combined to distinguish between cases of alcohol-impaired driving and drug-impaired driving.

The first step was to identify, for 2010/2011 to 2019/2019, all cases completed by criminal courts for which the most serious charge was impaired driving. By using a process of deterministic hierarchical matching, we then tried to identify, among the incidents reported by police between 2008 and 2019, those that corresponded to impaired driving cases completed by the courts.

Police Administration Survey

The Police Administration Survey collects data on police personnel and expenditures from each municipal, provincial and federal police services in Canada. The following security agencies are excluded from the survey: the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, railway and military police, and government departments enforcing specific statutes in the areas of income tax, customs and excise, immigration, fisheries and wildlife. Additionally, private security services and private investigators are not included in the survey.

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