In North America, impaired driving (under the influence of alcohol or drugs) remains one of the most prominent contributing factors to serious collisions on the road. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD Canada), in Canada 4 people per day on average are killed as a result of impaired driving. In the United States, that number is estimated to be significantly higher, with 50 people on average dying every day.
While significant efforts are in place to decrease these numbers, impaired drivers continue to present an ongoing and significant risk to the safety of all road users. As more governments increase access to substances, with recent cannabis legalization happening in more states and in Canada, the variety of impairments and opportunity for impairment is increasing. This concern also continues to grow in the light of the current societal changes as a result of the COVID-19 health crisis.
With the tight restrictions implemented for both employers and employees, a growing number of people are working from home. Although this means that there are fewer cars on the road, it also means that people have a larger opportunity to consume impairing substances earlier in the day. Moreover; hard restrictions on hosting establishments, such as bars and restaurants, are keeping doors closed and the public in their homes. Because of this, isolated individuals are turning to alcohol or drugs to cope with self-isolation as well as a variety of other reasons. Recent studies in North America found that during the COVID-19 health crisis, many Canadians and Americans have increased their consumption of alcohol for three main reasons: lack of a regular schedule, stress, and boredom. Given this reality, we must prepare for the effect this will have on rates of impaired driving.
With an increase in consumption, there is sure to be an increase in the number of impaired drivers. The transition to a post-COVID-19 world is going to take time but there are measures that we can take to ease this transition. Some strategies could include an increase in social awareness; improved prevention tactics; availability to substance abuse programs; and increased opportunities for the testing of suspected impaired drivers, including self-testing before driving.