The province says two years after introducing Canada’s toughest provincial impaired driving law, an estimated 104 lives have been saved and impaired driving has dropped significantly.
At an event Wednesday to mark the National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims and Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s 25th annual Project Red Ribbon, Justice Minister and Attorney General Shirley Bond announced preliminary road-crash fatality data for the two years ending Sept. 30, and the results of a recent driver impairment survey, which included information gathered in Kelowna.
“It’s encouraging to note that, as you drive home late at night, the car coming toward you is far less likely to be piloted by an impaired driver than at any time in recent years,” said Bond. “More people are getting the message that it’s up to each of us to further road safety, by driving sober and following the rules of the road – and it’s paying off by saving lives.”
An inaugural National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims event in Kelowna was slated for Wednesday evening at the corner of Highway 97 and Dilworth Drive.
Since the September 2010 launch of the immediate roadside prohibition (IRP) program, the number of alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths has decreased to an average of 62 a year, said Bond.
That represented a 46 per cent decrease from the average of 114 in each of the previous five years, she added, and well exceeds the government’s original goal, set in 2010 to reduce alcohol-impaired driving fatalities by 35 per cent by the end of 2013.
The government also released an independently conducted survey of drivers in Kelowna, Abbotsford, Prince George, Saanich and Vancouver. It took place in June 2010 and June 2012 as part of an evaluation of the impact of the IRP legislation.
The 2012 Roadside Alcohol and Drug Survey found 44 per cent fewer drivers had a blood alcohol content (BAC) 0.05 per cent and over – and nearly 60 per cent fewer drivers were at or over the Criminal Code threshold of 0.08 per cent. The results also showed that levels of drinking and driving were the lowest recorded in the history of seven similar surveys conducted since 1995.
By questioning voluntarily participating drivers, the 2012 survey revealed strong awareness of, support for and concern about facing IRP sanctions:
• More than 82 per cent of drivers said they were aware of the sanctions
• 90 per cent felt the legislation would make roads safer
• 30 per cent said the new law prompted a change in their behaviour
• Asked to rate how inconvenient they thought certain immediate sanctions were, more than two-thirds of respondents saw B.C.’s lengthy driving prohibitions and vehicle impoundment for impaired driving as a “complete inconvenience”
• 53 per cent said they had been stopped in a police alcohol check in the last two years – and nearly half thought there was a good likelihood of being stopped if they drove after consuming too much alcohol
According to government statistics, in the five years before the IRP program, alcohol-related crashes in B.C. claimed an average of 114 lives each year. In the first year of the program, the fatality total was 66, representing 48 lives saved. In the second year, the preliminary total is 58, representing 56 lives saved.
In B.C., drivers impaired by alcohol face immediate penalties that could result in the confiscation of their vehicle, their licence, and cost them anywhere from $600 to more than $4,000 in administrative penalties and remedial program costs.