Saskatchewan sees significant decline in impaired driving deaths

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WATCH ABOVE: SGI said there was a significant decline in impaired driving deaths in Saskatchewan last year. Ryan Kessler looks at the numbers – May 24, 2018

The number of people killed in impaired driving crashes in Saskatchewan has declined significantly during 2017.

SGI said there were 39 deaths in the province last year involving alcohol or drugs, down from the five-year average of 57 deaths.

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Of those deaths, 34 were alcohol-related, a decline of 40 per cent between 2016 and 2017. The other five deaths were attributed to drugs.

Despite the decline, impaired driving remains the top cause of fatalities on Saskatchewan roads.

“The fact that we’re seeing fewer collisions, injuries and fatalities attributed to impaired driving has us cautiously optimistic that attitudes and behaviours are changing in our province,” Joe Hargrave, the minister responsible for SGI, said in a statement.

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“We hope this is the start of something big and we want to let people know that when they make good decisions – to not drive impaired, to stop friends and family from driving impaired, to plan a safe ride home – it can have a real and positive impact.”

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Changes to existing laws, increased roadside check stops and public awareness campaigns may have played a role in the decline in impaired driving deaths.

“This significant decline in impaired driving deaths in Saskatchewan is a powerful illustration of the impact of strong laws and effective, ongoing awareness efforts,” MADD Canada national president Patricia Hynes-Coates said.

“MADD Canada will continue to offer its support and assistance to the government of Saskatchewan, law enforcement and other road safety organizations in their efforts to save even more lives.”

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Saskatchewan toughened its impaired driving laws in 2017. Among the changes were seizing vehicles for three day for experienced drivers with a blood alcohol content over .04, and zero drug and alcohol tolerance for all drivers 21 or under and all new drivers.

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Legislation has also been introduced to strengthen penalties for impaired drivers transporting children.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan introduces zero tolerance drug impaired driving rules

Of concern to the government is the upcoming legalization of marijuana.

Saskatchewan is taking a zero tolerance approach to drug impaired driving, with legislation expected to pass during the spring sitting of the legislature.

Along with federal penalties, drug-impaired drivers in Saskatchewan will receive a minimum of a one-year license suspensions, fines between $1,250 and $2,500, and a requirement to complete education courses.

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