MADD Canada says impaired numbers have increased for the first time since 2011

Jaymie-Lyne Hancock lost her brother DJ seven years ago in a crash involving a drunk driver.

“We still struggle, we still miss him," Hancock said Thursday. "You know family functions or big life events, they're not the same. There’s always a void.”

Hancock, MADD Canada's president for more than a year now, said she's extremely disappointed by the findings in the latest MADD Canada report.

It found an average of 10 impaired driving criminal charges and short-term provincial licence suspensions were laid every hour in Canada in 2019.

The report shows that in 2019 a total of 86,964 total charges and short-term suspensions were laid. And 232 charges and short-term suspensions were laid for every 100,000 Canadians. Overall, an average of 238 charges and short-term suspensions were laid daily.

Hancock said the number of impaired drivers charged or suspended was very high in 2019, before the pandemic, because more officers were demanding breath samples.

“What that’s telling us is that mandatory alcohol screening was effective when it was being used right," she said.

"We were laying those charges because we were catching more impaired drivers, and that should send the message right there. You know the police are out there, they can demand breath without any reason to suspect you're impaired if they pull you over.”

Sudbury police Sgt. Blair Ramsay said he can’t speak for other services, but in Sudbury, officers in the traffic management unit commonly demand breath when they see high-risk driving behaviour but no suspicion of alcohol.

Ramsay said local numbers continue to be high.

“It’s not surprising, unfortunately, for me statically," he said. "Just in Sudbury alone, just this year, so in 2021, we were almost one a day.”

A key finding in the report was the increase in the rate of alcohol-related charges and short-term suspensions, which had been on the decline for several years. That rate actually increased from 75,393 in 2018 to 77,645 in 2019. It is the first increase in alcohol-related charges and short-term suspensions since 2011.

Both Hancock and Ramsay want to remind the community that there is always a better option than to drive impaired.

“If you consume any alcohol or drugs just don’t drive. Bottom line," said Ramsey.

"There’s so many options out there now to be able to reach out to friends, family, public transit you know we have Uride now we have taxi services, there’s so much out there -- you know, even the old school walking."