Deadly crash: Canadian drivers less likely drunk

JOHNS HOPKINS (US) — Fatal motor vehicle crashes in the United States are much less likely to involve alcohol if the driver carries a Canadian license rather than a U.S. or Mexican license.

The  prevalence of alcohol involvement in fatal crashes was 27 percent for both U.S. and Mexican drivers, but only 11 percent for Canadian drivers, according to a study by researchers at Johns Hopkins and Columbia universities.

Similarly, alcohol impairment was found in 23 percent of U.S. and Mexican drivers but in only 8 percent of Canadian drivers involved in a fatal crash.


Research has found that foreign drivers in other countries generally are at greater risk of crashes than native drivers. In contrast, this study shows that drivers licensed in Mexico and Canada who were involved in fatal crashes in the United States had the same or less alcohol impairment than U.S.-licensed drivers. The report is published in the October issue of Injury Prevention.

“Our findings were unexpected, partly because the substantial cultural differences between the U.S. and Mexico led us to anticipate differences in alcohol-related crashes,” says lead study author Susan P. Baker, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy and professor in the university’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“We also anticipated that Canadian drivers in U.S. crashes would be similar to U.S. drivers because the rate of alcohol-related fatal crashes is similar within the two countries,” Baker says.

Together, Mexican and Canadian drivers comprise more than 70 percent of all foreign-licensed drivers involved in fatal crashes in the United States.

The researchers say that the less prominent role of alcohol in fatal crashes of Canadian-licensed drivers in the United States may suggest that a larger proportion of Canadians than Americans were traveling on vacation or business, situations that may be less likely to involve alcohol.

Crashes at night (when alcohol is more likely to be involved) were also least common among Canadian-licensed drivers. And finally, the researchers say, it is also possible that Canadians are less likely to drive after drinking.

Data for the study came from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration database of fatal traffic crashes. Study subjects were drivers aged 16 years or older who were licensed in the United States, Mexico, or Canada and were involved in a U.S. crash from 1998 to 2008 that resulted in at least one death. Alcohol involvement was defined as having a blood alcohol content of 0.01 g/dl or greater, and alcohol impairment was defined as a BAC of 0.08 g/dl or higher.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More news from Johns Hopkins University: