Drink-driving has become the top killer of people in Canada, according to Statistics Canada data.
In the past five years, more than 7,000 people died in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
While most of those deaths occurred in the last two years, it was the third consecutive year the number of deaths was higher than in the previous five years.
The number of people killed by alcohol-related crashes was more than twice the average of those who died in car crashes, which includes pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists.
For most of the past two decades, the number and severity of fatalities involving alcohol have been lower than those related to accidents, says Rob Wier, an associate professor at the University of Calgary.
In that time, the numbers have declined in the U.S. and the number has increased in Europe, Wier says.
That trend is due to the emergence of new technologies that have made it easier to spot drivers.
“In the last five years we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number, severity and frequency of alcohol-associated deaths,” Wier said.
“It’s a real problem for communities.”
In recent years, many jurisdictions have taken action to prevent and control binge drinking, including by banning certain types of drinks such as rum, vodka and bourbon.
Those laws also have created an environment in which people have more opportunities to drink and drive.
That makes it harder for police to keep people off the road.
For example, police in Ottawa are not allowed to search a person’s car for alcohol-containing substances unless they are accompanied by a supervisor or a member of the public.
And they can only search the driver’s seat.
A recent report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says the ban on driving under the influence of alcohol is often seen as an effective way to reduce the number.
But that approach can also encourage drivers to take a dangerous risk.
“There’s a risk that you’re going to drink more and drive more,” Wiedermann said.
The new measures, however, are not enough to reverse the trend.
“We don’t have enough resources to effectively address the problem,” Wiest said.
In many cases, he says, “the solution to the problem is more enforcement and better training.”