Stronger drunk driving laws lead to safer roads, study finds

August 18, 2014

Changes to British Columbia's laws against driving while impaired have reduced fatal crashes as well as ambulance calls and hospital admissions resulting from motor vehicle crashes, a new University of British Columbia study finds.

Researchers concluded that harsher penalties for impaired driving and speeding instituted by the B.C. government in September 2010 reduced crashes related to drinking and driving.

Automobile crashes declined 21 per cent, crash-related hospital admissions dropped 8 per cent and crash-related ambulance calls fell by 7.2 per cent. Based on those statistics, there were an estimated 84 fewer fatal crashes, 308 fewer hospital admissions and 2,553 fewer ambulance calls for road trauma each year.

"Our findings add to the growing evidence that the new laws, although controversial to some, were associated with marked improvements in road safety," said lead author Jeffrey Brubacher, associate professor of Emergency Medicine at UBC, researcher with Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute and a VCH Emergency Department physician. "We hope that other jurisdictions will follow B.C.'s lead in implementing similar laws designed to deter dangerous driving."

Under the changes B.C. imposed in 2010, first-time offenders with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05 per cent to .08 per cent will have their driver's licence suspended for three days, pay a $600 fine and, at police discretion, have their vehicle impounded for three days. Drivers with a BAC higher than .08 per cent face even stiffer penalties.

Previous research by Dr. Brubacher and colleagues found a 40 per cent decrease in alcohol-related fatal crashes and a 23 per cent decrease in alcohol-related injury collisions in the year after the changes took effect.

Drawing on that previous research, the recent study asserts that the changes to the law and accompanying enforcement and media coverage – and not other factors – were responsible for the reduced rate of fatal crashes, and ambulance calls.

Published online Aug. 14 in the American Journal of Public Health, the study notes that there was a drop in fatal crashes in B.C., but there was no decline in in Washington state or Saskatchewan, where laws remained constant during the study period. There was a significant drop in Alberta, but the researchers attribute that to a "spillover" effect of media coverage, and the fact that Alberta began debating and then approved changes similar to B.C.'s during the study period.

Explore further: Marijuana use involved in more fatal accidents in Colorado

Related Stories

Marijuana use involved in more fatal accidents in Colorado

May 15, 2014
The proportion of marijuana-positive drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes in Colorado has increased dramatically since the commercialization of medical marijuana in the middle of 2009, according to a study by University ...

Fatal crashes in the US: Fewer Canadian drivers under the influence

October 18, 2011
A new study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy and Columbia University finds alcohol-related fatal motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. are much lower among drivers with Canadian licenses ...

Stoned drivers: UVIC part of study on marijuana impairment

July 29, 2011
A University of Victoria researcher is a co-investigator for a study on whether drivers who are high on marijuana cause more crashes than sober drivers.

Speed a factor in one-third of deadly crashes involving teen drivers

June 27, 2013
(HealthDay)—Speeding is a factor in a third of fatal crashes involving teen drivers in the United States, according to a new report.

Fatalities down sharply as 16-year-olds drive less

February 24, 2014
Getting behind a steering wheel has been the most hotly anticipated rite of passage for most American teenagers (and a cause of insomnia among parents) practically since the invention of the automobile. For decades, 16-year-olds ...

Multiple drug use fueling drugged-driving fatalities: report

June 24, 2014
(HealthDay)—Drugged drivers involved in fatal crashes in the United States are more likely to test positive for prescription drugs, marijuana and multiple drugs than they were 20 years ago, a new study finds.

Recommended for you

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

High-dose vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles for children

July 18, 2017
Giving children high doses of vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles, a new study has found.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

The Black Smurf
1 / 5 (1) Aug 18, 2014
No that's the wrong approach. If you are convicted of a DUI you go to prison for 10 years. No exceptions. Second conviction is life w/o parole.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.