Once again, Saskatchewan has Canada’s worst drunk driving rate.
Statistics Canada released its annual report on impaired driving Wednesday.
Across the country, police reported dealing with 72,039 impaired driving incidents in 2015.
That translates to a national rate of 201 drivers charged per 100,000 people.
Saskatchewan came in with a rate of 575 incidents per 100,000 people – approaching three times the national rate.
It’s also nearly double the runner-up – Alberta – which has a rate of 314 people charged per 100,000 population.
Saskatchewan has shown the most difficulty getting drunk driving rates down.
Nationally, the impaired driving rate has fallen by 65 per cent, from 577 per 100,000 in 1986 to 201 per 100,000 in 2015. Here, the rate has only come down by 37 per cent.
The Statistics Canada data also provides impaired rates for various Canadian cities.
St. John’s, Nfld. has the worst rate among the country’s larger centres. Regina had the third-highest rate and Saskatoon was sixth in the country.
Attitudes need to change: police
Sgt. Patrick Barbar with the Saskatoon Police Service said while he’s seen improvement in the province’s rate per 100,000 in the last couple of decades – it’s “nothing to write home about.”
“We’re now in the high 500s when we used to be in the 700s,” he said.
Barbar attributes that – and any hope for future improvement – to a necessary “change in culture” regarding drinking and driving in Saskatchewan. A shift, he noted, that is markedly slow.
“Our communities have been traditionally spread apart, and it hasn’t always been a priority to deal with things like impaired driving,” he said.
“It was just accepted that if you drank here, you had to get home.”
A bar owner in Radisson, Sask. is doing her part to curb the problem. Elvera Lachappelle has been offering her patrons rides home for years.
“I think every small bar in small town Saskatchewan should give rides — at least offer them,” she said.
Lachappelle said she thinks too many people still believe it’s safe to drive drunk on the province’s back roads.
While officers in the city enforce impaired driving laws year-round, the service increases checkstops in Saskatoon throughout the month of December.
Locations are made public by police through social media the day of the stops.
Barbar said the area where officers set up are based on notable events happening in the city and other traffic factors.
As for the best way to avoid becoming a statistic, Barbar said the message is simple: plan ahead.
“Don’t show up at your Christmas party – or whatever venue you’re going to – and try to figure it out there. You need a solid plan before you head out,” he said.
In Saskatoon, cab companies increase fleets on notably busy nights and Operation Red Nose is available to drive patrons and their vehicles home in several Sask. communities.
Drivers are also reminded to slow down when passing officers enforcing impaired driving laws on the road.