With more people staying home due to the coronavirus pandemic, there have been noticeably fewer cars on Saskatchewan roads. But that hasn’t necessarily translated into fewer people getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.
The number of impaired driving offences across the province since the pandemic began in March has gone up slightly over the same time period last year, according to data provided by SGI.
From March to June of 2019, SGI’s records show 1,292 impaired driving offences.
From March to June of 2020, a period during which non-essential businesses and services were shut down under a public health order, there were 1,397.
MADD Canada suggests a number of factors contributed to the uptick of 105 more offences in the province at a time when there was less vehicular traffic in general.
Studies have indicated people have upped their alcohol intake, said MADD Canada CEO Andrew Murie.
The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction reported 20 per cent of people who drink and who have been staying home are drinking more.
“We’re hoping this does not signal a bad indicator that people continue to do that,” Murie said of consuming alcohol. He noted how the increase in impaired driving offences in May and June of this year over March and April of this year corresponded with more businesses and services opening.
With many people still adapting to what’s being described as a new normal, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction’s report found that people also drinking more by May, citing stress and boredom as reasons.
However, in May and June of 2019, impaired driving offences were higher than they were in March and April of 2019.
SGI does an educational push in May, said spokesperson Jennifer Sully.
“These numbers are an indication of strong enforcement on our roads,” Sully said of the impaired driving offences in general.
“Law enforcement are on the look out for impaired drivers every month, every day — and they’re finding them.”
RCMP, noting there were no impaired driving blitzes during the lockdown, suggest changing spring weather could play a role in the jump in May and June.
Both RCMP and MADD Canada said an increase in impaired driving tends to correlate with increases in other traffic safety benchmarks, such as collisions, injuries and fatalities on roads.
SGI said that more detailed information for 2020 is not available yet.