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Impaired driving in Canada, 2011: highlights

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  • In 2011, police reported 90,277 impaired driving incidents in Canada, about 3,000 more than in 2010. While the large majority of these were alcohol-related, 2% were drug-related.
  • The rate of impaired driving increased for the fourth time in five years, up 2% in 2011, and was at its highest point in a decade. Despite these recent increases, the 2011 impaired driving rate was less than half of what it was 25 years ago.
  • Trends in impaired driving rates have varied across the country over the last decade. Since 2001, the largest increases among the provinces have been seen in Newfoundland and Labrador (despite a drop in 2011) and British Columbia. While most of the other provinces have generally followed the national trend of increasing rates since 2006, the impaired driving rate has continued to decline in Quebec and Ontario.
  • Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island recorded the highest impaired driving rates among the provinces in 2011, while Ontario and Quebec had the lowest.
  • Rates of impaired driving were lower in census metropolitan areas (CMAs) than in non-CMAs. Among the CMAs, the highest rates were found in Kelowna and St. John’s, while the lowest were recorded in Ottawa, London and Kingston.
  • The rate of impaired driving is associated with age. The highest impaired driving rates were recorded for those drivers 20 to 24 years of age. The rate then slowly declines with increasing age.
  • The vast majority (82%) of persons charged with impaired driving are male. While the impaired driving rate for males has been steadily declining for the past 25 years, the trend for females has been somewhat different. The impaired driving rate for females declined until 1997, remained stable between 1997 and 2005, and then generally increased since. As a result, females now account for 1 in every 6 impaired drivers, compared to 1 in 13 in 1986.
  • In 2010/2011, adult criminal courts completed about 48,000 cases where impaired driving was the most serious offence. Impaired driving was the most serious offence in more than 1 in 10 cases (12%) completed in adult criminal courts, the highest proportion among offence types.
  • More than 4 in 5 impaired driving cases resulted in a guilty outcome in 2010/2011, higher than the average for all offences. Fewer than 1 in 10 (8%) guilty impaired driving cases resulted in a prison sentence in 2010/2011, a decrease from the 14% sentenced to prison in 2000/2001.
  • Over the past decade, the median custodial sentence length for impaired driving has remained stable at around 30 days. However, the mean sentence length continued to increase, from 67 days in 2000/2001 to 90 days in 2010/2011.
  • In the reporting jurisdictions, impaired driving accounted for about 6% of all admissions to sentenced custody in correctional services in 2010/2011. About 4 in 10 admissions to provincial sentenced custody for impaired driving were intermittent sentences.