MADD Canada and families of drunk driving victims are expressing optimism after Saskatchewan reported its lowest number of impaired driving deaths in 30 years.
SGI held a news conference Thursday morning to show their preliminary stats for 2017, which count 39 deaths on Saskatchewan roads due to impaired driving.
Most of the deaths were attributed to alcohol consumption, while five were referred to as drug impairment.
Minister responsible for SGI Joe Hargrave said the fatality number is the lowest its been since the provincial insurer started releasing annual tallies in 1988.
“People are really starting to listen,” he said.
Impaired driving fatalities dropped significantly from the year before, with 57 deaths recorded in 2016.
It’s the biggest year-over-year drop since 2012-13, when there were 72 and 43 deaths respectively.
While deaths spiked again after the 2013 drop to 60 in 2014, SGI noted the most recent decrease was unique because of the decline in impaired driving-related injuries.
In 2013 there were 613 injuries, consistent with other years. In 2017, the injury number dropped to 340.
“This is not a one year thing,” Hargrave said.
“I’m very optimistic that Saskatchewan people are catching on. This will be the way it’s going to be, the trend will continue to decline.”
The minister, along with MADD and Saskatoon police chief Troy Cooper, attributed the decrease to increased enforcement and the “disappear” ad campaign — which shows photos of victims before their images vanish from their surroundings.
“They’re changing behaviours, and that’s very important,” MADD Canada national director Patricia Hynes-Coates said.
“This dramatic decrease in alcohol and drug-related crash deaths shows people are hearing the message.”
Several families who have lost loved ones to impaired drivers were at the ceremony.
Bonny Stevenson, who lost her son Quinn in Saskatoon in 2013, said she’s noticed a shift in how people think about securing a safe ride home.
“It’s what we’ve been working towards,” she said. “It’s really nice to see the change.”
She and her husband have become tireless advocates against drunk driving, organizing baseball tournaments in memory of their son and speaking to groups about safe practices.
Stevenson said they don’t begrudge people drinking alcohol, as long as they have a plan.
“Quinn was a fun guy,” she said. “You’re allowed to have fun, but you have to be responsible.”
SGI’s 2017 statistics are preliminary numbers based off data from police services across the province, and could change based on reports from the coroner’s office.