BC roadside prohibition laws shown to save lives

- Mitch Wright

Researchers at the University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research (CARBC) have determined that British Columbia’s new drinking and driving laws, implemented in 2010, are making a considerable impact in lives saved.

A study led by Dr. Scott Macdonald, CARBC assistant director, and published online in the peer-reviewed academic journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, found that the number of fatal alcohol-related collisions decreased by more than 40 per cent under the new law.

The Immediate Roadside Prohibition (IRP) legislation was passed in 2010 to help police and the courts more effectively process drinking drivers and increase the likelihood of apprehension and punishment. The legislation largely replaced laws under the Criminal Code of Canada, which had more severe penalties but also lower probability of punishment.

“It’s clear the Immediate Roadside Prohibition legislation saves lives,” says Macdonald. “Our findings suggest every province and territory in Canada should have its own legislation regarding drinking and driving.”

Macdonald and his team of researchers from CARBC and the University of British Columbia worked with the government of BC to conduct a third-party evaluation of the impact of the legislation by examining three types of outcomes from alcohol-related collisions—fatalities, injuries and property damage.

The resulting study—“The Impact on Alcohol-Related Collisions of the Partial Decriminalization of Impaired Driving in British Columbia”—compares statistics from the 15-year period before and two-year period after the implementation of the legislation.

“These results demonstrate that our approach to reducing the amount of alcohol-related injuries and fatalities on our roads is working,” says Suzanne Anton, Attorney General and Minister of Justice. “To date, an estimated 104 lives have been saved since BC's impaired driving law came into effect in 2010. At its heart this program is about keeping our roads safe so drivers can get home to their families.”

Along with the 40 per cent reduction in fatalities from alcohol-related crashes, the study found significant declines for injuries (23 per cent) and property damage (19.5 per cent).

“Anecdotally, MADD knew that the new BC laws on drinking and driving were working, but until the Centre for Addictions Research of BC completed this detailed study there was no empirical proof of the laws’ effectiveness,” says Andrew Murie, chief executive officer of MADD Canada. “Now that CARBC has shown how well the Immediate Roadside Prohibition can work in Canada, I think there will be a global rethink on the way countries deal with drinking and driving. In fact, once BC figures out its legal challenges surrounding the legislation, I think the IRP will become the golden template. You’ll almost be criticized if you don’t do it.”

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Keywords: Centre for Addictions Research of BC, alcohol, addiction, research

People: Scott Macdonald

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