Thoughts on MADD Canada’s 2015 Provincial Impaired Driving Report

Because I’ve been an impaired driving lawyer for a few years, I have learned that it’s not wise to trust the headlines regarding impaired driving statistics. Particularly when it comes to anything reported or suggested by MADD Canada. They are, after all, a lobby group with a particular interest. They have a discernible bias in what they report and how they report it. To accept what they say at face value would be akin to accepting the conclusion that McDonald’s is healthy in a study funded by the restaurant chain.

Today I listened to a show on CKNW’s Simi Sara show regarding MADD Canada’s latest report. I wanted to write a short blog post about my thoughts on MADD Canada’s 2015 Provincial Impaired Driving Report.

MADD Canada has released its 2015 Provincial Impaired Driving Report. Unsurprisingly to me, no province is getting a decent grade. It’s easy to give a province a failing or unacceptable grade in impaired driving enforcement when you create your own criteria that they should meet, rather than looking at the manner in which provinces have tried to address impaired driving and the success or failure of those approaches. For example, MADD gives a “mark” to a province if it’s mandatory to impound a vehicle for three days after a first 0.05 Blood Alcohol Concentration incident.

But has anyone actually bothered to look at the deterrent effect, if any, on the vehicle impoundment? The rational connection between the impound and a decrease in impaired driving incidence? MADD certainly didn’t. They’re angle appears to be more about punishing drivers or making it more difficult to obtain a license in the first place. The study they cited in support of the vehicle impound criteria was RoadSafetyBC’s own study about the effectiveness of their laws. This study couldn’t even distinguish the associated publicity from the impact of the law itself. The other study dealt with new traffic laws as a whole and not any particular deterrent effect achieved by a vehicle impound for three days following a .05 BAC reading.

MADD Canada also proposes that drivers should be given a zero-tolerance alcohol condition for three years after completing a Graduated Licensing Program. Their recommendation is that drivers should have to endure a three-year Graduated Licensing Program in the first place, and should not be eligible to begin driving until age 16.

Yes, that’s right. MADD Canada wants to effectively make a Graduated Licensing Program last six years. Because while it is not an offence to drive with a blood alcohol concentration between 0.00 and 0.049 in British Columbia with a Class 5 license, MADD Canada thinks you should still be prevented from doing so. Similarly, they want a six-year prohibition on testing positive for illicit drugs, when we do not have per se limits for drug impairment in Canada or British Columbia, no mechanism to properly test without invasive procedures, and when a positive test can reflect being exposed to marijuana or other drugs in ambient conditions. In “green” British Columbia, that’s a concern for drivers who may be around drug users, but may not use themselves.

More troubling, however, is that MADD Canada claims that these limits have a “proven efficacy” in reducing drunk driving deaths. The research cited in support of this point? It pertained to a study about passenger and night driving restrictions on those in a Graduated Licensing Program. And MADD’s own guideline for policies that they believe should be a model for the provinces. But even MADD’s own research cited no source for their supposition that continuing a zero BAC restriction for three years after the Graduated Licensing Program would be effective in any way.

If you don’t look behind the bald claims made by these organizations, you might come to believe that the provinces have a near-failing grade in impaired driving enforcement. But that isn’t the case.

12 thoughts on “Thoughts on MADD Canada’s 2015 Provincial Impaired Driving Report”

  1. I lost my niece to a drunk driver and it devastated our family. MADD came to be by my sister’s side and started telling her various things. It didn’t take long to realize they were there only to use her to advance their own agenda. MADD started out with good intensions but have grown into something I find causes me great suspicion. I, personally, will have nothing to do with them.

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