Sask. doesn't see drunk driving as a problem 'until someone actually dies': MADD

A new poll by Mainstreet Research shows one in five Saskatchewan residents thinks it is OK to drink and then drive as long as it's only for a short distance on a quiet road.

New poll shows 1 in 5 OK with drinking and driving over short distances

Eight per cent of adults in Saskatchewan say they have driven a vehicle while under the influence. (CBC)

A new poll by Mainstreet Research shows one in five Saskatchewan residents thinks it is OK to drink and then drive as long as it's only for a short distance on a quiet road.

That attitude is somewhat more prevalent among those between 18 and 34, according to the Aug. 22-23 Mainstreet/Postmedia poll.

Nineteen per cent said they're OK with driving under the influence under those circumstances, four per cent said they're not sure and 77 per cent said it's unacceptable.

The survey also asked people if they had driven under the influence (eight per cent said yes) or had been in the car with someone who had been drinking (15 per cent said they had).

According to David Valentin, executive vice-president of Mainstreet Research, the real number who accept drinking and driving over short distances may be even higher than the numbers indicate.

"It's important to remember however that there is a certain amount of social desirability bias," Valentin said. 

"Sometimes respondents are not as truthful when answering these sorts of questions."

A total of 1,690 people were interviewed for the poll.

It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.38 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

MADD advocate says Saskatchewan needs drastic changes

Wendell Waldron is a community leader with Mothers Against Drinking and Driving in Regina. He moved from Ontario three years ago and joined MADD after he was hit by a drunk driver shortly after his move.

"It was just a scary thing. I got hit from behind and it just kind of brought things to light that it can happen to anyone. It doesn't matter how good of a driver you are," Waldron said. 

When he moved here, Waldron said the casual attitude towards drunk driving in the province surprised him, after living here a few years he said the recent poll results do not come as a shock.

"It's disappointing but it's not surprising."

"We don't view drinking and driving as a matter of consequence until someone actually dies," Waldron said.

Potential solutions: seizures, driving prohibitions and random tests

Waldron said there are things the government can do to deter drunk driving.

He said the province could seize vehicles after a first offence. As of now, impaired drivers must be caught a second time before losing their vehicle. 

We don't view drinking and driving as a matter of consequence until someone actually dies,- Wendell Waldron - MADD Regina

As a second step, Waldron suggested taking away drivers licenses from impaired drivers for a longer period of time.

Finally, he says the number of police stop checks should be increased.

"The number one deterrent is not the laws, it is the fear of being caught by a police officer, that is what's going to stop people from drinking and driving. The Regina police department last year responded to over 645 DUI incidents last year, which is an enormous number for a city this size."

"If you give them (police) the opportunity to do random sobriety stop checks the message will be clear and the drunk driving will stop to a certain degree," Waldron said.

Wendell Waldron of MADD Regina was hit by a drunk driver just months after moving to Saskatchewan from Ontario. (CBC)

Currently, Canada, the U.S. and U.K. have not adopted random breath testing. It has been in place for more than 30 years in France, Sweden and Finland. Australia adopted the practice in 1982 and saw a significant reduction in fatal crashes involving alcohol. Most developed countries have the test. 

SGI CEO, 'disappointed' in poll results

While fatalities on Saskatchewan roads are down to 122 in 2015, according to SGI, fatalities due to impaired driving accounted for nearly half of that amount.

"About 53 of those fatalities were due to drinking and driving —so about 43 per cent. It is the number one problem in terms of fatalities on Saskatchewan roads," said Andrew Cartmell, CEO of SGI.

"We need drivers in Saskatchewan to make a personal commitment to not drink and drive. Driving attitudes and behaviours in this province really need to change and it needs to come from drivers themselves," said Andrew Cartmell, CEO of SGI.

When it comes to vehicle seizures after a first offence, Cartmell said SGI would need to do some research to recommend a change to the province.

Cartmell pointed to B.C. where there is a lower percentage of fatalities due to impaired driving than Saskatchewan — about 20 per cent according to SGI. In 2010, the province imposed a series of tough impaired driving laws, including immediate vehicle seizure.

​In 2014, the government passed widespread changes to Saskatchewan's road safety laws to deter drinking and driving. Cartmell said the government doesn't typically consider changes until it has at least five years of statistics to analyze.

68% do not support Don McMorris' return to office

This past May, Waldron presented SGI and SLGA with awards on behalf of MADD Canada. The minister responsible for the files, Don McMorris, was arrested and charged with impaired driving earlier this month.

"When I found out that he'd been arrested for impaired driving it was kind of a shot to the stomach, so to speak. It illustrates a point that we're not taking it seriously. If there's one person that shouldn't be arrested for [being] impaired it should be him," Waldron said. 

In fact, one poll question looked at the impaired driving charge received by the former cabinet minister.

Asked if McMorris should run for office again after his charges are dealt with, 68 per cent of poll respondents said no. 

Mainstreet Research asked people if they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: "Driving under the influence is OK if you are travelling a short distance over quiet roads." Most said it's not OK but 19 per cent agreed with the proposition. (Mainstreet Research)