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The True Costs of Impaired Driving in Canada

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How does one calculate the true costs of impaired driving in Canada? If you Google “What are the true costs of impaired driving in Canada?” you’ll be hard-pressed to find a definitive answer. Google is apparently uncertain whether the query involves the overall economic, societal costs of impaired driving or how much money a driving under the influence (DUI) arrest might cost an alleged impaired driver. Additionally, you’ll find that while the latter costs are easily quantifiable, few organizations are willing to comprehensively estimate the societal costs of impaired driving.

The first societal cost uncovered with our query was offered by MADD Canada in the third search result, which produced “Victims and survivors of impaired driving and Canada’s parole process.” In the third paragraph of this 2021 report, MADD states that the “financial costs of impaired driving are estimated to be $20 billion per year.” However, according to this report, MADD Canada has been using this figure since at least 2013. In fact, it seems to be one of the most frequently cited cost estimates in news stories and reports about the societal costs of impaired driving in Canada.

Digging Deeper into Economic Costs

A deeper Google search into the overall economic costs of impaired driving in Canada failed to uncover any current, comprehensive, national data on the issue. This may be due in part to the numerous variables involved, including:

  • Lost earnings
  • Medical costs
  • Vehicle and property damage
  • Law enforcement man-hours
  • Courtroom resources
  • Insurance rate increases

That said, we were able to find some snippets of information that provide additional ballpark estimates of the potential costs. In fact, a Public Health Agency of Canada report suggests that MADD’s long-held $20 billion estimate may be exaggerated. The report — “The alcohol deficit: Canadian government revenue and societal costs from alcohol” — cites $14.6 billion as the societal cost alcohol consumption has on health care, lost productivity, criminal justice, and other elements of society. “Alcohol consumption” is a far broader metric than “impaired driving,” and we assume the latter is included to some degree with the former. In fact, the $3.1 billion in criminal justice system costs cited in the report are probably primarily related to impaired driving, as DUI is one of the most common alcohol-related crimes addressed by police and the courts.

Turning to AI for the Answer

Given the dearth of current, comprehensive, national data on the societal economic costs of impaired driving found by Google, we decided to consult ChatGPT 3.5, a popular artificial intelligence portal. After all, Google is so yesterday.

ChatGPT didn’t provide specific numbers but was able to give some ballpark annual figures on the costs by specific metric and attributed some sources behind their numbers:

  • Healthcare costs — hundreds of millions (Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction).
  • Property Damage — billions of dollars (Insurance Bureau of Canada).
  • Legal and Law Enforcement Costs — hundreds of millions of dollars (no source given).
  • Lost Productivity — billions of dollars (Conference Board of Canada).
  • Social Welfare Costs — no figures given, but these costs include “counselling and support services for victims and their families” and “broader social costs related to reduced quality of life, stigma, and community disruption.”

As with our efforts to find such information via Google, ChatGPT noted that “it’s challenging to provide a comprehensive estimate of the financial costs of impaired driving in Canada.”

Here’s What Impaired Driving Might Cost You

Beyond acknowledging that impaired driving costs Canada billions of dollars annually in societal economic costs, we are unable to provide you with the answer of what is the true cost of impaired driving in Canada. However, with extensive expertise in DUI criminal defence, we can certainly tell you the true cost of a first-time DUI conviction. Consider the basics, which are:

  • $150 to $250 in vehicle towing fees.
  • $50 to $100 daily vehicle impoundment fees.
  • $1,000 fine.
  • $634 fee for mandatory enrollment in Ontario’s “Back on Track” education/treatment program.
  • A minimum of $1,000 for Ignition Interlock program fees.
  • “High Risk” annual insurance premium increases from $2,000 to $10,000, depending on the make, model, and year of car and other variables.
  • Minimum $281 in driver’s license reinstatement fees.
  • Costs for alternative transportation during license suspension.

And the costs of an impaired driving conviction don’t stop there. A DUI conviction means that you will have a permanent criminal record that can jeopardize your current employment or future employment opportunities. If you’re impaired driving caused a traffic accident, your insurance company will probably not pay for the damages to your vehicle. If you’re convicted of impaired driving causing bodily harm or death, you can expect further economic costs as you will not be able to earn an income while you complete your likely prison sentence. You also face the likelihood of a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit that will put further stress on your financial situation.

Avoid the Costs of a DUI Conviction with Mass Tsang

If you get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol or drugs, try to pause before turning the ignition to consider the potential costs of your actions should you get pulled over by the police. If it’s too late for that, and you’re already facing driving while impaired charges in the Greater Toronto Area, consult with the skilled criminal defence DUI lawyers of Mass Tsang. We have extensive expertise in DUI law in Ontario and decades of mounting successful DUI defence efforts for our GTA clients. Our lawyers can help you navigate the complicated legal system and strategize a robust DUI defence for the most favourable outcome possible. If you or someone you know is facing any impaired driving-related legal issues, contact us today.



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