Minimizing Impairment-Related Youth Traffic Deaths: The Need for Comprehensive Provincial Action

By Chamberlain, Erika A. L.; Solomon, Robert M. | Canadian Journal of Public Health, July/August 2008 | Go to article overview
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Minimizing Impairment-Related Youth Traffic Deaths: The Need for Comprehensive Provincial Action


Chamberlain, Erika A. L., Solomon, Robert M., Canadian Journal of Public Health


ABSTRACT

Despite the progress made between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s, traffic crashes remain the single largest cause of death among 15-24 year old Canadians. In recent years, approximately 45% of these deaths have been alcohol-related and, no doubt, additional youth crash deaths are drug-related. While young people are significantly overrepresented in impairment-related deaths as drivers, their overrepresentation is even greater as passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and users of recreational vehicles. These crashes are not simply a function of young people's immaturity and lack of driving experience; they also reflect young people's hazardous patterns of alcohol and drug use.

Under the Canadian constitution, the provinces have extensive legislative authority over driver and vehicle licensing, traffic enforcement, liquor licensing, and off-premise alcohol sales. Moreover, research in Canada and abroad has identified legislative initiatives that can significantly reduce impairment-related youth traffic deaths. Consequently, the provinces are well positioned to protect Canadian youth from such preventable harm. The provinces need to adopt a broad approach, including a comprehensive graduated licensing program, a zero blood-alcohol restriction on drivers under 21, enhanced police powers, and more rigorous enforcement of the existing licensing legislation.

Key words: Alcohol consumption; motor vehicles; traffic accidents; youth

RÉSUMÉ

Malgré une amélioration du bilan routier entre le début des années 1980 et le milieu des années 1990, les accidents de la route demeurent la principale cause de décès chez les Canadiens de 16 à 24 ans. Ces dernières années, environ 45 % des décès de la route dans cette population étaient liés à l'alcool, et d'autres étaient certainement liés à la drogue. Les jeunes sont considérablement surreprésentés dans les décès de la route l'affaiblissement des facultés est en cause, non seulement en tant que conducteurs, mais plus encore en tant que passagers, piétons, cyclistes et utilisateurs de véhicules récréatifs. Ces accidents ne s'expliquent pas simplement par le manque de maturité et d'expérience de conduite des jeunes; ils traduisent aussi leurs habitudes dangereuses en matière de consommation d'alcool et de drogue.

En vertu de la Constitution canadienne, l'immatriculation des conducteurs et des véhicules, les règlements de la circulation, la réglementation des alcools et les ventes d'alcool à l'extérieur relèvent largement de la compétence des provinces. Or, des études au Canada et à l'étranger ont répertorié des mesures législatives qui peuvent réduire de façon importante les décès de la route liés à l'affaiblissement des facultés chez les jeunes. Par conséquent, les provinces sont bien placées pour protéger les jeunes Canadiens contre ces méfaits évitables. Elles doivent adopter une approche élargie, y compris un programme intégré d'immatriculation par étapes progressives, un taux d'alcoolémie nul pour les conducteurs de moins de 21 ans, des pouvoirs policiers renforcés et une exécution plus rigoureuse des lois existantes sur l'octroi de permis.

Mots clés : consommation d'alcool; véhicules automobiles; accidents de la route; jeunes

The world was horrified by the events that unfolded at Virginia Tech in April 2007. In a few hours, 27 students and 5 faculty were killed, and another 25 were injured, before the gunman committed suicide. In the following days, fingers were pointed at those who might have prevented the shootings. Some blamed the university for its inadequate response;1 some blamed a system that allowed the shooter to purchase semiautomatic pistols within two years of being declared mentally unsound;2 and some blamed the university's "gun free" policy, which prevented others from carrying guns that might have been used to stop the shooter earlier.3 Following the tragedy, both state and federal politicians took steps to prevent a recurrence.

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