The Problem

Drinking and driving in BC

According to a recent Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) survey study  more British Columbians (80%) are concerned about drinking and driving than about any other societal problem.  About 60% rank health care, crime and pollution as the number one problem.  And yet, in the same survey one in five British Columbians  admits to driving after drinking. 

Crashes caused by drinking and driving

More than one in four persons killed in all BC motor vehicle crashes are victims of collisions that involve alcohol.

In crashes where alcohol is involved:

  • Almost 90% of those killed are in the drinking driver’s vehicle (as the driver or a passenger).
  • Over 80% of the drivers are male in casualty crashes.
  • 21-25 year-old males account for the highest number of drinking drivers.

Collisions involving alcohol typically occur on weekends, from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. during the summer months.

Who is at risk?

  • Those with even small amounts of alcohol in the blood – The increased risk begins at blood alcohol content (BAC) levels well below the legal limit of .08.  Even after one  – or two drinks containing alcohol, drivers more than double their risk of being in a fatal crash.
  • Those who consume over the legal limit – The risk of a fatal crash increases dramatically as the amount of alcohol in the blood increases. 
  • Young drivers who drink and drive. The combination of driver inexperience with drinking inexperience is a deadly mix that all too often results in tragedy.
  • Passengers in a drinking driver’s vehicle  – In a recent survey, 6.8% of British Columbians indicated that they had been a passenger in a motor vehicle driven by someone who has been drinking on one occasion in the previous month, and 11.4% indicated that they had been a passenger on two such occasions.
  • Problem drinkers – Those who drive with high BACs may be problem drinkers.  They are overrepresented among BC’s driver fatalities.

Drinking drivers put themselves and others at risk.

They put their passengers and other road users at risk of serious injury or death.  And, the pain to the drinking driver’s family is very real when you consider that drinking drivers also risk:

  • being prohibited from driving
  • fines and Penalty Point Premiums (a premium based on the number of points recorded against your driver’s licence – paid separately from your vehicle insurance premium)
  • being charged and convicted under the Criminal Code of Canada
  • a jail sentence
  • being in breach of their automobile insurance. ( If you are convicted of impaired driving and you have a crash, your insurance will not pay the cost of repairing your vehicle and you may have to pay back all costs – including any victim’s claims.)
  • being unable to hold certain jobs or be bonded
  • being required to have an ignition interlock installed on their car.
  • difficulties in travelling to other countries

More information on the penalties for impaired driving can be found in What the Law Says.

Societal costs of drinking driving are staggering

Estimates peg the societal costs of drinking and driving in BC at $1.6 billion every year. These costs include the health care costs for injured drivers, passengers and other road users as well as the loss in terms of human productivity for those injured and killed as a result of drinking driving crashes.