Saskatchewan had far more impaired driving charges in 2015 than other provinces — more than twice as many as Manitoba — figures released by Statistics Canada today show.
Saskatchewan’s 575 drunk driving charges per 100,000 population is nearly triple the national rate, and over five times the rate in Ontario.
Part of the high number reflects the fact that there is a lot of drunk driving in Saskatchewan, and part of it reflects the fact that police there have fewer tools to deal with drunk drivers than those in other provinces, explains Andrew Murie, CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
On the other hand, he points out, other provinces deal with less-serious impaired driving cases under provincial law, meaning they don’t show up in national statistics.
Saskatchewan law doesn’t provide for this kind of penalty, though changes are underway to bring it into line with other provinces.
The national statistics show a steady fall in criminal impaired driving charges since 2011, but Murie argues that impaired driving itself has stayed much the same — police have been dealing with more cases without laying criminal charges.
British Columbia dealt with nearly 20,000 impaired drivers in 2014 through administrative licence suspensions, for example. At one time, all those cases would have resulted in criminal charges.
Only four per cent of the charges were for drug-impaired driving (double 2009’s number) but Murie says that understates the problem.
In 2015, twice as many Ontario residents reported driving after using cannabis as did in 2010, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. The report shows that 5.6 per cent of men and 7.6 per cent of people between 18 and 29 admitted driving after using marijuana.
Drug-impaired driving has had close attention recently as Canada prepares to legalize recreational marijuana. In a report made public Tuesday, a federal panel studying legalization said that science doesn’t yet support having a legal limit for marijuana consumption, as we do for alcohol.
Marijuana is the second-most common drug, after alcohol, found in the bodies of drivers who die in crashes.