But it seems that decades of campaigns and awareness of the issue are finally paying dividends – and people in the province are saying ‘no more’ to driving while drunk or high.
Preliminary numbers released by SGI on Wednesday show 21 people in Saskatchewan were killed in impaired driving accidents in 2019, compared to an average of 54 per year between 2009 and 2018. On top of that, injuries also continued to trend downward, with 332 last year compared to 595 annually over the previous decade.
All told, the numbers for 2019 are the lowest SGI has on record.
“Our government has worked with victims’ families, law enforcement, advocacy groups and other stakeholders on a number of fronts to improve safety on our roads and fight Saskatchewan’s impaired driving problem,” said Joe Hargrave, Minister Responsible for SGI.
“The 2019 numbers are further evidence that Saskatchewan is making major progress on the province’s historically high impaired driving rates. The result is more lives saved and fewer families having to experience the unspeakable tragedy of seeing someone they love killed or severely injured due to impaired driving.”
The anti-impaired driving organization MADD also expressed their pride in seeing the province seeing such a steep and sudden downturn.
“Reducing impaired driving in a significant way requires strong and effective laws, consistent enforcement, impactful awareness and the cooperation of the public,” said MADD Canada CEO Andrew Murie. “Saskatchewan is achieving all those goals.”
Hargrave credited the work of MADD and the stories of those who lost lives to drunk drivers as having a major impact.
“I truly believe the work those families do – whether it’s in an SGI campaign, working as MADD ambassadors or simply by sharing their experience in conversations – has saved lives,” Hargrave said. “It’s impossible to hear their stories and not be touched by what they’ve gone through.”
From 2009 to 2012, Saskatchewan averaged more than 65 impaired driving fatalities a year, a number that began to trend downward in 2013. There were 39 fatalities in 2017, a total of 43 in 2018.
The trend in injuries is even more dramatic.
From 889 in 2009 to nearly half that only eight years later, the numbers have continued to fall, dropping to 367 in 2017 and 360 in 2018.
In addition to the work by MADD and other awareness groups, Hargraves pointed to a handful of other initiatives that helped along the way.
- Increased enforcement – An additional 120 traffic enforcement positions funded by government and SGI since 2014 via the Combined Traffic Services Saskatchewan initiative.
- Stronger legislation – New provincial impaired driving laws put in place in 2014, 2017 and 2018, which brought in tougher consequences for impaired drivers including vehicle seizures, licence suspensions and steep financial penalties.
- More options – The introduction of ridesharing, providing an additional safe ride option in some communities.
“I want to thank everyone who has made the decision to never drive impaired, and everyone who has stopped someone they cared about from getting behind the wheel in no condition to drive,” Hargrave said. “We need to not just sustain these numbers; we need to improve upon them. We will continue to work hard to change the culture around impaired driving in Saskatchewan.”