Sharp Decrease in Impaired Driving Deaths and Injuries in 2017
Numbers Possible Sign of Change in Behaviour by Saskatchewan Drivers
Numbers released by Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) today confirm there were significantly fewer deaths involving alcohol and drugs on Saskatchewan roads in 2017. Preliminary data from SGI shows there were 39 deaths* on Saskatchewan roads in 2017 from collisions involving alcohol or drugs, and approximately 340 injuries*.
Both numbers represent significant decreases in those categories from the previous year and from the five-year average. From 2012-16, Saskatchewan averaged 596 injuries and 57 deaths resulting from collisions involving alcohol or drugs.
Of the 39 fatalities, 34 were alcohol-related, while five were attributed to drugs**. There was a 40 per cent decrease in alcohol-related fatalities between 2016 and 2017.
“The fact that we’re seeing fewer collisions, injuries and fatalities attributed to impaired driving has us cautiously optimistic that attitudes and behaviours are changing in our province,” Minister Responsible for SGI Joe Hargrave said. “We hope this is the start of something big and we want to let people know that when they make good decisions – to not drive impaired, to stop friends and family from driving impaired, to plan a safe ride home – it can have a real and positive impact.”
“The latest statistics are evidence of an encouraging trend,” Saskatoon Police Service Chief Troy Cooper said. “The Saskatoon Police Service wishes to recognize the efforts of the Government of Saskatchewan, SGI, MADD Canada and our policing partners for their commitment to reducing impaired driving.”
“This significant decline in impaired driving deaths in Saskatchewan is a powerful illustration of the impact of strong laws and effective, ongoing awareness efforts,” MADD Canada National President Patricia Hynes-Coates said. “MADD Canada applauds the Government of Saskatchewan and Minister Hargrave for incredible leadership in this effort. We also thank the people of Saskatchewan who have taken this sober driving message to heart. MADD Canada will continue to offer its support and assistance to the Government of Saskatchewan, law enforcement and other road safety organizations in their efforts to save even more lives.”
Over the past several years, there have been a number of focused efforts aimed at reducing Saskatchewan’s high rate of impaired driving, including:
- Targeted law changes in 2014 and 2017 (www.sgi.sk.ca/traffic-laws) strengthening the penalties and consequences for impaired driving.
- Increased enforcement, including SGI-funded police positions dedicated to traffic safety. (www.saskatchewan.ca/government/news-and-media/2014/june/02/60-officers-dedicated-to-traffic-safety).
- Hard-hitting, award-winning impaired driving awareness campaigns like “People Shouldn’t Disappear” (www.sgi.sk.ca/disappear) and “Be A Good Wingman.” (www.sgi.sk.ca/wingman).
- Numerous community-level initiatives such as Operation Red Nose, Ding in the New Year, and other efforts by non-profit organizations, responsible businesses and individuals.
Even with the dramatic improvement in 2017, impaired driving remains a serious concern, and is still the top cause of fatalities on Saskatchewan roads.
With the pending legalization of cannabis by the federal government, Saskatchewan has taken a zero tolerance approach to drug-impaired driving. Legislation introduced last fall is anticipated to pass this spring. The province also introduced legislation to strengthen penalties for impaired drivers who transport children in Saskatchewan.
*These numbers are preliminary, based on data available from police forces in Saskatchewan, and may be adjusted based on additional information from the Coroner’s office or other sources.
**Many impaired collisions involve people who have been using both alcohol and drugs. Because alcohol is more readily detected, many collisions involving both are often simply classified as “involving alcohol.”