Volume 95, Issue 50

Thursday, November 29, 2001
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Study targets AIDS infection

Geeks get organized

Afghan refugee horror

Less housing available in London

Profs: complication clouds cloning

Study: 7.3 per cent drink and drive

New hate crime office to open in London

News Briefs

Study: 7.3 per cent drink and drive

By Tait Simpson
Gazette Staff

A new study on impaired driving released yesterday indicates Canadians are still getting behind the wheel after drinking.

The study, conducted by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, said Canadians admitted to driving drunk on more than 5 million occasions last year. However, the TIRF study reported a 16 per cent decrease in the number of Canadians who said they felt they drove when over the legal limit.

"This is good news to see that incidents are coming down," said Howard Collins, vice-president of the Brewers Association of Canada, which co-sponsored the study. "People are beginning to get the message, but we still have a job to do – to continue encourage safe drinking."

According to the study, 16 to 18-year-olds are the least likely to drive under the influence of alcohol, while 19 to 24-year-olds fall into the highest risk category.

Const. Ryan Austin, a breathalyzer technician with the London Police Department said the public should be wary when encountering drunk driving statistics, noting statistics will never be completely accurate because not all people driving drunk are caught.

Barbara Koppe, manager of marketing and communications at TIRF speculated on reasons for the decrease.

"The combination of education programs on impaired driving and the graduated licensing system have really been successful with the younger drivers," she said, adding university-age students are a different matter when it comes to drunk driving.

"We don't target our drinking awareness programs to university students," said Andrew Holt, president of the London chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

"We try to focus our education programs to high school students. By the time a person is university-age, they have already had a license for a few years and have made up their mind about whether they will get behind the wheel after drinking," he said.

Despite the high risk associated with university age students, the study's primary concerns were with repeat offenders who fall into all age categories.

Eighty-seven per cent of impaired driving trips were taken by just five per cent of drivers.

Among agencies such as MADD, there is consensus that a "hardcore group of drinking drivers" are not affected by awareness or warnings against drunk driving.

Alongside license suspension and rehabilitation services for repeat offenders, an Alcohol Ignition Interlock Systems, which is currently being tested in Alberta and Quebec, may soon be introduced in Ontario, according to MADD, TIRF and BAC.

The system, installed in the car ignition of a convicted drunk driver, requires a negative blood alcohol test to allow the car to start, according to the TIRF study.

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Copyright The Gazette 2001