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Drunk driver numbers on the rise in Abbotsford-Mission CMA

More police enforcement could be a factor in Abbotsford’s high number of impaired driving incidents. - File Photo
More police enforcement could be a factor in Abbotsford’s high number of impaired driving incidents.
— image credit: File Photo

Don’t drink and drive!

It’s a simple message that appears to be falling on deaf ears, at least in the Abbotsford Mission Census Metropolitan Area (CMA).

A Statistics Canada report indicates that the local CMA recorded 652 impaired driving incidents in 2011, an increase of 138 per cent over 10 years (2001).

That represents 367 incidents for every 100,000 in population, the fourth-highest rate in Canada.

Kelowna topped the list with a rate of 583 impaired driving incidents per 100,000 population, followed by St. John’s at 560 and Regina at 369.

Moncton was fifth at 349 per 100,000 population.

The lowest rates were recorded in Ottawa (87) and London (89).

Abbotsford’s increase over the past decade bucks the national trend which saw two-thirds of CMAs reporting declines.

The national average was 262 incidents per 100,000 population,

Abbotsford-Mission’s high ranking doesn’t necessarily mean that more people drink and drive, however.

“They (police) could have had more police blocks. There could be a reason for that increase. It’s not necessarily that it’s more prevalent, it might just be that they’ve caught more people,” said Nancy Anne Walker of the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.

Abbotsford Police Const. Ian MacDonald agreed, saying the local force has deployed members to find and catch impaired drivers.

“If you put out resources, you’re going to reap rewards.”

But he admits it isn’t all good news.

“The disappointing part is it doesn’t seem like we’re having that much difficulty in finding impaired drivers. Every time we go out looking, we’re successful.”

Despite new tougher impaired driving regulations, which the province put into place in 2010, MacDonald said some drivers continue to make bad choices.

Drivers in Abbotsford have become a focus for the police, who have just launched a new road-safety campaign.

MacDonald said in addition to the impaired driving incidents, the community has a “disproportionate” amount of fatal collisions and collisions involving pedestrians, bikes and scooters.

“Our traffic section in 2013 is going to have more staff than we’ve ever had.”

Nationwide, police reported 121 incidents of impaired driving causing death in 2011 and a further 839 incidents of impaired driving causing bodily harm. The rates of impaired driving causing death and causing bodily harm per 100,000 population were the lowest in 25 years.

Young adults aged 20 to 24 recorded the highest impaired driving rates in 2011, based on the number of licensed drivers. Rates then steadily declined with age.

While males represented 82 per cent of all persons charged with impaired driving in 2011, the impaired driving rate for males has been declining steadily for the past 25 years.

However, the rate for females has generally been increasing since 2005. As a result, females now account for 18 per cent of impaired drivers compared with 8 per cent of impaired drivers 25 years ago.

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