Impaired driving charges in Canada rise 2%

Canadian police are catching more impaired drivers, with 90,000 cases in 2011, up 3,000 from the year before, Statistics Canada says.

Number of deaths caused by impaired drivers falls to lowest in 25 years

An RCMP officer performs a breathalyzer test on a driver during a roadside check in Surrey, B.C., in 2010. New figures released by Statistics Canada on Thursday show that the number of impaired-driving cases reported by police in 2011 are up from the previous year, and the proportion of female drivers is growing as well. (Canadian Press)

Canadian police are catching more impaired drivers, with 90,000 caught in 2011, up 3,000 from the year before, Statistics Canada says.

The latest figures, released Thursday, show the rate of impaired driving was 262 per 100,000 population in 2011, up 2 per cent from the year before.  

That marks the fourth increase in the impaired-driving rate in five years, Statistics Canada says.

Meanwhile, the rate of impaired driving resulting in deaths or injuries fell to its lowest level in 25 years.  

There were 121 deaths related to impaired driving and 839 injuries.

Kelowna, St. John's had highest rates  

The lowest rates of impaired driving were in Ontario and Quebec, with 130 and 211 incidents of impaired driving per 100,000 population last year.

Northwest Territories and Yukon territories had the highest rates of impaired driving, with 1,463 and 943 incidents per 100,000 population reported by police in 2011.  

Among the provinces, Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island had the highest rates, with 683 and 493 incidents respectively.

Kelowna and St. John's, among major metropolitan areas across the country, had the highest impaired-driving rates in 2011, statistics show.  

The lowest rates were in Ottawa, London, Kingston, and Windsor, Statistics Canada said.  

Jail sentences less common  

Men accounted for 82 per cent of all those charged with driving under the influence in 2011, but, the overall impaired driving rate for males has been dropping for the past 25 years.  

Women, however, make up an increasing portion of impaired drivers. Last year, females accounted for 18 per cent of impaired drivers, up from eight per cent 25 years ago.  

While the overall number of impaired-driving cases reported by police are rising, the proportion of drivers going to jail is shrinking, Statistics Canada says.  

In 2010 and 2011, Canadian courts saw more than 48,000 cases where impaired driving was the most serious offence.   During that period, Statistics Canada says that overall the conviction rate for suspected impaired drivers was 84 per cent, compared with 64 per cent with cases in general.  

Still, of those impaired-driving cases with a guilty conviction, roughly eight per cent resulted in a prison sentence, lower than the 14 per cent rate a decade earlier.