"Kids” would probably be your first thought…and you would be on the right track according to recent data from 94 police departments showing that drivers aged 19 to 24 represent 56 per cent of all reported criminal driving incidents. (Are twenty-something’s still considered kids these days?)
Related statistics show that the rate of impaired driving peaks at age 21. However, increasing age does not necessarily bring maturity. A Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) survey found that drivers aged 25 to 34 are most likely to report they have taken the wheel after drinking.
A second thought might be “some drivers just won’t change” and, again, you would be backed up by the latest statistics. According to a national survey on drinking and driving released in December 2005 by TIRF, 15 per cent of Canadian drivers reported having “driven a vehicle within two hours of consuming alcohol”, in the previous 30 days.
But, more significantly and alarmingly, the survey estimated that “1.5 million drivers drove when they thought they were impaired.” Sixteen per cent of this group—which constitutes about 2.3 per cent of all drivers—said they drove when they thought they were impaired—“four or more times”. On the basis of these findings, TIRF estimates that only 3 per cent of drivers account for 84 per cent of reported impaired driving trips in Canada. According to the Canada Safety Council, “this is in line with a large body of research… [showing] that a small minority of drinking drivers accounts for most of Canada’s impaired driving problem.”
Because of the risk posed by drivers who have consumed alcohol, impaired driving is a crime under the Criminal Code of Canada. Under this set of rules, driving with a blood alcohol level (BAC) exceeding 0.08 is a criminal offence for which punishment including fines and imprisonment are prescribed by law. Accordingly, a BAC of over .08 is probably the first definition that comes to mind for the term “drunk.”
Provincial and territorial laws based on their constitutional jurisdiction over property and civil rights also address drinking and driving. Provincial and territorial jurisdictions have legislated permissible levels of BAC for the purpose of imposing administrative license suspensions, (but not for the purpose of creating “offences.”) Under these sets of rules, driving with a blood alcohol level (BAC) exceeding 0.05 can earn an “administrative license suspension”. But a BAC of over .05 is probably not the next definition that comes to mind for the term “drunk.” This is because many Canadians are not aware of these rules. The TIRF survey found that less than half of the respondents knew that their license could be suspended by the police at a lower alcohol limit than the .08 limit under the Criminal Code. Only six per cent of all respondents could define what that limit was.
It will probably be only a matter of time before a “.05” breathalyzer reading replaces the current “.08” limit, for Criminal Code purposes.