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Breathe here: Ontario judge wants alcohol-monitoring devices on all cars

Last Updated Aug 27, 2015 at 11:11 am EDT

A breathalyzer device is shown in Toronto on May 2, 2014. CITYNEWS

An Oshawa judge is floating the idea of having alcohol-monitoring devices on all vehicles in an effort to crack down on drunk driving.

It would also clear up the court system, Justice Graham Wakefield wrote in a decision last month. The Toronto Star reported that while the man in that trial was ultimately acquitted, the trial took up substantial court resources.

If “mass-produced Interlock devices were mandatory in all motor vehicles,” the Ontario Court of Justice wrote, there could be a “clear reduction in the carnage caused by drunk drivers.” There could also be “equally substantial savings in the justice system,” Wakefield said.

The breathalyzer works by having the driver blow into a device on the dashboard. If a high blood-alcohol level is detected, the car won’t start. The device also requires breath samples throughout the journey, to prevent someone else blowing into the interlock device at the start of the trip.

Ontario provincial police say that in 2013, there were 57 impaired deaths in the province. In the same time, 78 people were killed in distracted driving collisions and 44 people died in speed-related crashes.

When it comes to charges, not deaths, OPP laid 118 impaired driving charges in January of 2015. That’s an increase of 37 per cent over January 2014, when 86 people were charged.

Across Canada, 90,000 people were caught driving impaired in 2011, an increase of 3,000 from the year before. However, fewer people are dying in these crashes. Police reported 121 incidents of impaired driving causing death in 2011, and 839 injuries. The rate of impaired driving causing death dropped 29 per cent in 2011, reaching its lowest point in over 25 years.

Impaired driving statistics: gender and age

Meanwhile, data from Statistics Canada (1986 to 2011) shows the vast majority of those charged with drinking and driving are male. In 2011, there were 90,277 impaired driving incidents with 82.4 per cent charged being males and 19.6 per cent females.

However, there’s been a steady increase in impaired female drivers since the 1980s, while the number of impaired male drivers has decreased slightly.

Statistics Canada numbers from 2011 also show the highest impaired driving rates occurred within the 20 to 24 age group. The rates decrease with increasing age.

Also, drivers under 35 years old account for two-thirds of those accused of impaired driving causing death and causing injury in 2011.