Close this search box.

‘Tis the season for Canadians to speak up about drinking and driving: Poll

OTTAWA, December 19, 2013 /CNW/ – A new Road Safety Monitor (RSM) poll conducted by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) and sponsored by Beer Canada, Toyota Canada Foundation, and Aviva Canada reveals a significant decrease between 2007 and 2013 in the percentage of drivers who admitted to driving when they thought they were over the legal limit in the past twelve months from 8.2% to 4.8% respectively.The public opinion poll conducted in October 2013 investigated Canadians’ behaviours and actions in relation to drinking and driving as well as trends.

According to survey results, among the 4.8% of respondents who drove when thought they were over the legal limit, 25.5% reported doing most of their drinking at a bar while 24.4% of respondents reported that they had been drinking at the home of a friend or relative, meaning that they were drinking in the presence of others.

To help reinforce safety messages with those who continue to drive after drinking, it is important that Canadians speak up. “Many of those who continue to drive after drinking are often with family or friends,” reports Dr. Ward Vanlaar, Vice President Research at TIRF. “This provides an important opportunity for these individuals to help change behaviour by letting drivers know the risks associated with driving after drinking, and that there are options that they can choose to avoid getting behind the wheel after drinking.”

Drinking and driving has well-known effects on road safety. Alcohol-impaired drivers suffer from a variety of limits to their performance: they commit careless driving errors, have significantly reduced situational awareness, and overall may be more likely to make unsafe decisions behind the wheel. Drinking can affect the brain for hours and may even influence a person’s driving the next morning.

“The fact that fewer people report driving when they thought they were over the legal limit has helped to reduce the risk these drivers pose to themselves and others,” explains Vanlaar. “This appears to be in line with the decline in alcohol-related fatalities across Canada. A clearer picture will appear with more monitoring of the trend.”

Over the past 25 years, unprecedented gains have been made in reducing the number of drinking drivers on the road and crashes involving drinking drivers,” notes Steve Brown, TIRF Research Associate. “These gains are largely due to the combination of influential social programs, effective legislation used to reduce drinking and driving and enforcement efforts.” 

Yet, in spite of these declines, researchers underscore that more progress is still essential. The study also found that the decrease among the percentage of drivers who admitted to driving after drinking any amount of alcohol in 2013 is still well above the low of 14.7% that was reported in 2005. This may suggest that a small number of drivers continue to be unaware of the risks that lower levels of alcohol can pose.

Of equal importance, public opinion polls have consistently demonstrated widespread concern among Canadians about drinking drivers as a road safety issue. In TIRF’s 2013 survey, 76.7% of Canadian drivers still viewed drinking and driving as a very or extremely serious problem.

“While this statistic reveals that Canadian drivers still take drinking and driving very seriously, the number of people citing drinking drivers as a significant road safety issue seems to have stabilized and even decreased in recent years” notes Brown. “The reasons behind this stabilization are still in need of thorough investigation; however it is nevertheless still clear that drinking drivers are a priority concern among Canadians”.

Holiday events and celebrations can be exciting times for family and friends to get together. TIRF, along with poll sponsors, Beer Canada,Toyota Canada Foundation, and Aviva Canada, reminds Canadians to plan ahead when out celebrating with friends or at home with loved ones.

“Everyone is encouraged to stay overnight, take a cab or arrange to have a designated driver who will get them home safely”, Brown recommends. “A designated driver should be someone who has not had anything to drink, not just the person in the group who had the least to drink.”

Quick facts:

  • In 2013, 76.7% of Canadians continue to regard the issue of drinking and driving in general, and drinking and driving by young drivers in particular (74.4%) as priority concerns.
  • In 2010, the most recent year for which data are available, 744 Canadians were killed in a traffic crash involving a drinking driver.
  • When asked about driving when they thought they were over the legal limit in the past 12 months, 4.8% of Canadians admitted to doing this in 2013.
  • Males tend to be overrepresented in the drinking and driving issue in Canada.

About the poll. These results are based on the RSM, an annual public opinion poll developed and conducted by TIRF. A total of 1,201 Canadians completed the poll in October of 2013. Results can be considered accurate within plus or minus 2.8%, 19 times out of 20. For the fifth time, some respondents were contacted by phone and some on-line. The RSM was made possible by financial support from Beer Canada, Toyota Canada Foundation, and Aviva Canada.

About TIRF. Established in 1964, TIRF’s mission is to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries. As a national, independent, charitable road safety research institute, TIRF designs, promotes, and implements effective programs and policies, based on sound research. TIRF is a registered charity and depends on grants, contracts, and donations to provide services for the public. Visit us online at;Twitter; Facebook.


For more information, please contact:


David Bird
Website administrator for

Explore More Road Safety Insights

TIRF’s research & educational tools support the work of communities across Canada.

Your donations & our work enable them to spend less time looking for answers & more time developing & implementing road safety strategies.