The Magnitude of the Alcohol/Drug-Related Crash Problem in Canada

The Magnitude of the Alcohol/Drug-Related Crash Problem in Canada: Overview

MADD Canada has adopted a comprehensive approach in assessing the impairment-related (alcohol/drugs) crash problem in Canada. MADD Canada has attempted to obtain a complete picture which encompasses: alcohol and drugs; all types of vehicles and vessels; the full range of harms and losses (fatalities, injuries, property damage, and their social costs); and crashes that occur on public and private roads and property, and on the water. This broad approach is mandated by MADD Canada’s mission, which is to assist all victims of impaired crashes and to reduce the total number of fatalities, injuries, and property damage crashes.

Other organizations and government agencies also publish reports on impairment-related crashes in Canada. Their data often differ from MADD Canada’s, because they have defined their terms of reference more narrowly. For example, their fatality statistics may be limited to alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes occurring on public roads. Similarly, their injury data may be limited to injuries that require a hospital admission, and crashes that the police attend and for which they write a formal report. Simply because their data differ from those of MADD Canada does not mean that their data are inaccurate. Rather, these differences reflect their more limited scope of inquiry.

In 2010, it was estimated that 2,541 individuals were killed in motor vehicle crashes in Canada. MADD Canada estimates that at a minimum 1,082 of these fatalities were impairment-related. In MADD Canada’s opinion, the 1,082 figure is a conservative estimate, due to the underreporting that results from the inability to conduct alcohol tests on surviving impaired drivers and from the need to rely on police reports. Moreover, the figure underestimates the percentage of crash deaths that involve drugs. Thus, the recent sharp increases in driving after drug use have not been factored into the 1,082 figure.

As well, the 1,082 figure does not include individuals killed in impaired crashes on the waterways. It was estimated that there was an average of 135 boating deaths per year from 2006 to 2008 and it appears that more than 50% of these boating deaths involved alcohol and/or drugs. Nor does the 1,082 figure include fatalities arising from aircraft, trains and industrial vehicles such as forklifts.

Given the limits on the 1,082 figure, MADD Canada estimates there are somewhere between 1,250 and 1,500 impairment-related crash deaths in Canada each year (3.4– 4.1 deaths per day).

In 2010, it was estimated that about 299,838 individuals were injured in motor vehicle crashes. MADD Canada estimates that approximately 63,821 of these individuals were injured in impairment-related crashes (roughly 175 per day). Note that this figure is limited to motor vehicle crashes only.
Property Damage

In 2010, it was estimated that approximately 1,651,650 motor vehicles were involved in property damage-only crashes in Canada. MADD Canada estimates that approximately 210,932 of these vehicles were damaged in impairment-related crashes (roughly 578 per day).
Estimated Cost of Impaired Driving Crashes

Using a social cost model, impairment-related driving deaths, injuries and property damage-only crashes in Canada can be estimated to have cost $20.62 billion in 2010. This model is recent, is based on extensive analysis, and was prepared for the federal Ministry of Transportation. This figure is also limited to motor vehicle crashes.
Sources for the Data

The estimates for impaired driving used in this document are explained in a report entitled “Estimating the Number and Cost of Impairment-Related Traffic Crashes in Canada: 1999 to 2010” by Professors Stephen G.A. Pitel and Robert Solomon, both of Western University. That report is based in part on G. Mercer & M. Marshall, “Estimating the Presence of Alcohol and Drug Impairment in Traffic Crashes and their Cost to Canadians: A Discussion Paper” (Vancouver: ARES, December 2002) and G. Mercer, “Estimating the Presence of Alcohol and Drug Impairment in Traffic Crashes and their Costs to Canadians: 1999 to 2006” (Vancouver: ARES, 2009).

[Revised April 2013]

Tougher penalities for driving drunk

Administrative Penalties for GDL Holders

Q. Am I allowed to have any blood alcohol content?

NO. All new drivers who hold a Graduated Drivers Licence (GDL) will continue to be subject to zero tolerance for blood alcohol.


Q. What happens on a 1st or subsequent offence?

If a GDL driver is stopped with ANY blood alcohol level at all, they will now face an immediate 30-day suspension and 7-day vehicle seizure. Each 30-day suspension will require an additional 1 year in the Graduated Licence Program.


Q. What if I refuse to provide a breath sample?

Any refusal for a breath sample will result in a criminal charge, just as it always has. The penalties for drivers over .08 will apply.


Q. What is the purpose of these tougher penalties?

Impaired drivers are causing death on our roads. From 2006 to 2010, 569 people were killed and 8,530 people were injured in alcohol-related collisions in Alberta.

It is important we act to prevent these injuries and deaths to keep all Albertans safe on our roads.


Q. Can I appeal?

At the roadside, you can request a second breath test from a second device.

You can appeal your licence suspension and your vehicle seizure through the Alberta Transportation Safety Board.


Q. Where do I go for more detailed information about the legislation?

Visit Alberta Transportation

0 Tolerance for Drunk Driving

Strengthening Alberta’s approach to impaired driving

Our province’s new impaired driving law will help to reduce the number of drinking drivers on our roads – and that means fewer deaths and serious injuries. Drivers who are criminally impaired or refuse to provide a breath sample will receive the harshest penalties. And, these drivers will still be charged with a criminal offence. Tougher consequences at the .05 to .08 level are designed to discourage drinking and driving – before drivers reach the criminally impaired level. Our goal is to create safer roads by ensuring that Albertans take responsibility for their actions behind the wheel.

  • Alberta is focusing on those who receive Criminal Code offences, repeat offenders and new drivers.
  • Education and enforcement are both key to Alberta’s approach.
  • This made-in-Alberta approach focuses on changing behaviours through mandatory courses and ignition interlock use.
  • Alberta does not believe that fines are the solution. These changes do not include fines or demerit points.
  • This legislation does not prevent responsible Albertans from having a drink with dinner or friends.
  • Our focus is safer roads.

Success to Date

On July 1, 2012, Alberta implemented tougher sanctions for graduated drivers licence (GDL) drivers and drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08. On September 1, 2012 tougher sanctions were also implemented for drivers with a BAC of .05. Since the tougher sanctions came into force, starting on July 1 through December 31, 2012, there has been a 46% decline in the number of alcohol-related fatalities compared to the same period for the previous five years.

Fatalities in Alcohol-Related Collisions: July-December 2012

Alberta Alcohol Suspensions and Seizures: July-December 2012


Implemented July 1, 2012
For drivers with blood alcohol over .08:
  • Criminal charge
  • Immediate licence suspension which is sustained until criminal charge is resolved.
  • 1st charge: sustained licence suspension and 3-day vehicle seizure, “Planning Ahead” course.
  • 2nd charge: sustained licence suspension, 7- day vehicle seizure, “Impact” course.
  • 3rd charge: sustained licence suspension, 7-day vehicle seizure, “Impact” course.
  • Mandatory ignition interlock after criminal conviction – 1 year for 1st conviction; 3 years for 2nd conviction; 5 years for 3rd conviction.
Implemented September 1, 2012
For drivers with Blood Alcohol .05 to .08:
  • 1st offence – Immediate 3-day licence suspension and 3-day vehicle seizure.
  • 2nd offence – Immediate 15-day licence suspension, 7-day vehicle seizure, “Planning Ahead” course.
  • 3rd offence – Immediate 30-day licence suspension, 7-day vehicle seizure, “Impact” course.
Implemented July 1, 2012
For new (GDL) drivers with blood alcohol over .00
  • GDL driver found with any blood alcohol – Immediate 30-day licence suspension and 7-day vehicle seizure