MADD report says Saskatchewan has Canada’s worst impaired driving death rate

A new report by Mothers Against Drug Driving (MADD) Canada singles out Saskatchewan for having Canada's worst per-capita rate of impaired driving deaths and apparently doing little about it.

The group's 2012 Provincial and Territorial Legislative Review, completed last month, reports the prairie province's impaired driving death rate of 8.44 per 100,000 population in 2009 (the last year for which comprehensive data is available) was more than double the national average of 3.18.

The rate in Saskatchewan has stayed above 6.50 since 2000, the report notes.

"Given its poor record, it is troubling that Saskatchewan has not introduced any significant impaired driving initiatives in the last three years," the report states, according to the Regina Leader-Post.

MADD called on Saskatchewan to implement major reforms to reduce the death rate covering licensing, short-term licence suspensions, the use of vehicle ignition locks and the impounding and forfeiture of vehicles.

But Tim McMillan, minister responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance, defended the government's efforts. Saskatchewan has the lowest legal limit for blood-alcohol content, .04 per cent, he pointed out.

"In 2009, we had some of the most forward legislation in the country," McMillan told the Leader-Post. "When we had the worst record we actually had some of the strictest legislation."

The MADD report lauded Ontario and British Columbia for their efforts to crack down on impaired driving.

Saskatchewan, along with New Brunswick and the northern territories, need to make major improvements, MADD said in a news release.

Saskatchewan had the worst per-capita death rate, while Ontario had the lowest, at 2.03 per 100,000 population, followed by Quebec at 2.15 (though MADD noted alcohol-related crash deaths are under-reported in the province), Newfoundland and Labrador at 2.82, B.C., 3.60, 4.57 in Nova Scotia, 4.86 in Manitoba, 5.46 in Prince Edward Island, 5.58 in New Brunswick, and 5.70 in Alberta.

Numbers for the three northern territories were not included in the report because of the small size of the data set, but MADD noted they "have generally had poor impaired driving records."

MADD praised British Columbia's controversial law that imposes a licence suspension for blowing .05, and its vehicle-impoundment program, while Ontario and Quebec were singled out for requiring drivers under age 22 to have no booze in their systems at all.

Newfoundland and Labrador's comprehensive .05 administrative licence suspension program and its parallel program for drug-impaired drivers also got MADD's approval.

"In contrast, Saskatchewan, Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, which have had poor impaired driving records, have not enacted any significant initiatives in the past three years," MADD said.

But the progress made by some provinces shouldn't make Canadians complacent, said the report's lead author, law professor Robert Solomon of the University of Western Ontario.

"Canada's impaired driving record is poor by international standards," said Solomon. "For example, Canada's per capita rate of alcohol-related crash deaths in 2008 was five times that of Germany, even though its alcohol consumption rate was 20 per cent higher than Canada's."

"There is no reason why Canada should continue to have such a poor impaired driving record when it is clear that significant progress can be made."