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Canadians complacent about drinking and driving: Poll

OTTAWA, December 18th, 2014 /CNW/ – A new Road Safety Monitor (RSM) poll conducted by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) and sponsored by Beer Canada and the Toyota Canada Foundation reveals that the percentage of respondents who regard drinking and driving as a major road safety concern has consistently decreased from a high of 88.0% in 2006 to 73.1% in 2014.The public opinion poll conducted in October and November 2014 investigated the attitudes, behaviours and actions of Canadians in relation to drinking and driving as well as trends.

“One theory for this decline is the increase in competing priorities during the past few years around other high profile road safety issues such as distracted driving, drugged driving, and young drivers," explains Dr. Ward Vanlaar, TIRF Vice President Research. “While other road safety messages are typically promoted year-round, Canadians may perceive drinking and driving as an issue that more often occurs around the holiday season.”

Of additional concern is the percentage of self-reported drinking drivers (6.6%) who admitted to driving when they thought they were over the legal limit, which has nearly doubled since reaching a record low of 3.6% in 2012.According to researchers, given the relationship between levels of concern among the public and their behaviour, it is perhaps not surprising to see the increase in self-reported drinking and driving over the legal limit.

"While an increase from 3.6% to 6.6% of those who reported driving when they thought they were over the legal limit would seem small, this would equate to an estimated 1.6 million Canadians driving on our roads and putting themselves, their passengers and other road users at risk,” notes Dr. Ward Vanlaar. “Once more recent fatality data become available for analysis, we will be able see if this change in trends has affected fatality and injury rates. Nonetheless, these changes are worrisome considering the gains we’ve made in Canada over the past twenty-five years.”

The declines in the number of alcohol-related deaths (744 in 2010) and the number of drivers who drive after drinking (17.4% in 2014) are largely due to a combination of changes, including stronger legislation, enforcement efforts, and education and awareness programs. However, researchers want to remind Canadians that drivers must never become complacent and that responsible driving is a year-round obligation.

“Regardless of the road safety issue, a comprehensive approach is needed to make progress," explains Steve Brown, TIRF Research Associate. "Year-round messaging, knowledgeable and socially-engaged road users, and consistent levels of enforcement as well as continuous monitoring of drinking and driving trends will help insure the gains made since the 1980s are not eroded."

Quick facts:

  • In 2014, 73.1% of Canadians rated the issue of drinking and driving as a priority concern; this is a significant decrease from 88.0% in 2006.
  • In 2010, the most recent year for which data are available, 744 Canadians were killed in a traffic crash involving a drinking driver.
  • When asked about driving when they thought they were over the legal limit in the past 12 months, 6.6% of Canadians admitted to doing this in 2014, up from 3.6% reported in 2012 which was the lowest percentage reported since 1998.
About the poll. These results are based on the RSM, an annual public opinion poll developed and conducted by TIRF. A total of 1,031 Canadians completed the poll in October and November of 2014. Results can be considered accurate within plus or minus 3.1%, 19 times out of 20. The majority of the questions were answered using a scale from one to six where six indicated high agreement, concern, or support and one indicated low agreement, concern or support.

About TIRF. Established in 1964, TIRF’s mission is to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries. As a national, independent, charitable road safety research institute, TIRF designs, promotes, and implements effective programs and policies, based on sound research. TIRF is a registered Canadian charity and depends on grants, contracts, and donations to provide services to the public. Visit us online at www.tirf.caTwitter and Facebook.

Free Download: The Road Safety Monitor 2014: Drinking and Driving in Canada
About the Project: The Road Safety Monitor

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