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TIRF poll: New post-pandemic decline among drivers self-reporting driving when they believed they were over the legal limit

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Key findings:

  • 5.8% of drivers admitted driving when they thought they were over the legal limit which is a significant decrease from 10.5% in 2022.
  • 391 Canadians were killed in an impaired driving crash, accounting for 26.5% of all fatal road crashes in 2021.
  • 46.4% of respondents who drove when they thought they were over the legal limit did most of their drinking at their home.
  • Just over one-third (36.7%) of drinking drivers did most of their drinking alone and 22.9% drank with a partner or family.
  • Female respondents were 51.3% less likely to report driving after consuming any amount of alcohol compared to males.

Ottawa, ON December 19, 2023 – The Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) has released, Road Safety Monitor 2023: Drinking & Driving in Canada, with sponsorship from Beer Canada and Desjardins Insurance. This new fact sheet examines current beliefs, attitudes and practices related to drinking and driving in Canada. It considers them in the context of recent trends in alcohol-related fatal crashes using TIRF’s National Fatality Database which is current up to 2021; the most recent year for which data are available.

In 2023, a total of 5.8% of respondents admitted driving when they thought they were over the legal limit in the past 12 months. However, it should be noted while this percentage is smaller compared to previous years, this is among an estimated licensed driving population of 26 million drivers. This significant decrease from 10.5% in 2022 reverses a trend that began in 2016 which showed a steady increase in drivers who admitted to driving when they thought they were over the legal limit. Continued monitoring is essential to determine whether this decline will continue beyond 2023.

“The significant drop in the percentage of people self-reporting driving when they thought they were over the legal limit is a really positive change, however, still almost 400 Canadians died in a road crash involving a drinking driver in 2021,” shares Hannah Barrett, TIRF Researcher & Program Coordinator. “This means it is essential Canadians do not become complacent about the issue. Progress is difficult to achieve but rather easily lost.”

Respondents who reportedly drove when they thought they were over the legal limit were also asked with whom they did most of their drinking. In 2023, over one-third (36.7%) of respondents reported doing most of their drinking alone compared to 15% in 2022. In addition, one-fifth of respondents reported doing most of their drinking while with a partner or family (22.9%) or acquaintances (20.6%). The increase in persons who drink alone is perhaps due to the increased loneliness felt as a result of residual effects of pandemic social distancing and isolation, and the move to remote work.

“Despite this shift in the historical trend for self-reported drinking and driving behaviour, we continue to see high levels of concern among three-quarters of Canadians, and this is critical to motivate continued action on this issue,” shares Milad Delavary, TIRF Research Scientist. “While the overall decrease in impaired driving is encouraging, the persistent issue demands sustained efforts. The correlation between self-reported drinking and driving behaviour and alcohol-related crashes underscores the importance of ongoing education and awareness campaigns.”

It is essential to tailor key messages to reach the subgroup of Canadians who are drinking at home alone and then getting behind the wheel. Notably, female respondents were 51.3% less likely than males to report driving after consuming any amount of alcohol, signifying a potential avenue for targeted interventions.

As we near the holiday season, we encourage all Canadians to prioritize responsible choices behind the wheel to create safe roads for everyone. We must remain vigilant to protect the lives of all road users.

Download the fact sheet:

About the poll
These results are based on the RSM, an annual public opinion poll developed and conducted by TIRF. A total of 1,500 Canadians completed the poll in September of 2023. Results can be considered accurate within plus or minus 2.5%, 19 times out of 20. The majority of the questions were answered using a scale from one to six where six indicated high agreement, concern, or support and one indicated low agreement, concern or support.

About TIRF Canada:

The vision of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) is to ensure people using roads make it home safely every day by eliminating road deaths, serious injuries and their social costs. TIRF’s mission is to be the knowledge source for safe road users and a world leader in research, program and policy development, evaluation, and knowledge transfer. TIRF is a registered charity and depends on grants, awards, and donations to provide services for the public. Visit or find all TIRF websites and social media at

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For more information, please contact:

Karen Bowman
Director, Communications & Programs
Traffic Injury Research Foundation
613-238-5235 (office)
1-877-238-5235 (toll-free)
250-797-0833 (direct / PST time zone)
613-238-5292 (fax)

David Bird

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