The Magnitude of the Alcohol/Drug-Related Crash Problem in Canada: Overview

MADD Canada has adopted a comprehensive approach in assessing the magnitude of the alcohol/drug-related (impaired) crash problem in Canada. MADD Canada has attempted to obtain a complete picture of the problem that encompasses: both alcohol and drugs; all types of vehicles and vessels; the full range of harms and losses (fatalities, injuries, property damage, and their societal financial costs); and crashes that occur on public roads and property, private roads and property, or on the water. This inclusive approach to the data is mandated by MADD Canada's mission, which is to assist all victims of impaired crashes and to reduce the total number of such fatalities, injuries and crashes.

Other organizations and government agencies also publish reports on the impaired crash problem in Canada. Their data often differ from MADD Canada's because they have defined their terms of reference more narrowly. For example, their fatality statistics may be limited to alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes occurring on public roads. Similarly, their injury data may be limited to crashes that the police attend, and for which they write a formal report. Simply because their data differ from that of MADD Canada does not mean that their data are inaccurate. Rather, these differences typically reflect their more limited scope of inquiry.


In 2007, it was estimated that 3,045 individuals were killed in motor vehicle crashes in Canada. MADD Canada estimates that at a minimum 1,239 of these fatalities were impairment-related. Moreover, in MADD Canada's opinion, the 1,239 figure is a conservative estimate, due to the underreporting that results from the inability to test surviving impaired drivers and reliance on police reports.

As well, the 1,239 fatalities do not include individuals killed in impaired crashes on the waterways. In 2005, it was reported that there were 126 boating fatalities, 47 of which involved known or suspected alcohol use.  Nor do the 1,239 fatalities include fatalities arising from aircraft, trains and industrial vehicles such as forklifts.

Given the limits on the 1,239 fatalities figure, MADD Canada estimates there are somewhere between 1,350 and 1,600 impaired crash fatalities in Canada each year (3.7-4.4 deaths per day).


In 2007, it was estimated that about 359,310 individuals were injured in motor vehicle crashes. MADD Canada estimates that approximately 73,120 of these individuals were injured in impaired driving crashes (roughly 200 per day). Note that this figure is limited to motor vehicle crashes only.

Property Damage

In 2007, it was estimated that approximately 1,979,250 motor vehicles were involved in property damage crashes in Canada. Of these, MADD Canada estimates that approximately 210,006 involved impaired driving (roughly 575 per day). Note that this estimate is limited to motor vehicle crashes only.

Estimated Cost of Impaired Driving Crashes

Depending on the model used, the cost of impaired driving crashes in Canada has been estimated to range from 2.2 billion dollars (real dollar model) to 12.6 billion dollars (willingness to pay model). The real dollar model is based on the money spent, without considering any social costs. In contrast, the willingness to pay model includes money spent and a broad range of society-related costs. Again, these figures are limited to motor vehicle crashes.

Sources for the Data

The estimates for impaired driving used in this document are explained in a discussion paper entitled "Estimating the Presence of Alcohol and Drug Impairment in Traffic Crashes and their Costs to Canadians: 1999 to 2007" submitted to MADD Canada by Associate Professor Stephen G.A. Pitel, University of Western Ontario. That discussion paper is based on an earlier discussion paper, "Estimating the Presence of Alcohol and Drug Impairment in Traffic Crashes and their Costs to Canadians: 1999 to 2006" by G. William Mercer, Ph.D., Applied Research and Evaluation Services, University of British Columbia.

[Revised April 2010]







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