Fact Sheet

Drinking and Driving Trends

Drinking and driving continues to be one of Ontario's most significant road safety issues. During the past decade, more than 2,000 lives have been lost and more than 50,000 people have sustained injuries in collisions involving a drinking driver.

Drinking and driving hurts everyone - through deaths, injuries and personal tragedies. It also hurts our economy through added costs for health care, emergency response and property damage. The financial cost to society of drinking and driving is estimated to be at least $3 billion annually.


While Ontario has come a long way, impaired driving remains a serious problem:

  • Every year, about 17,000 drivers are convicted of Criminal Code of Canada offences (including impaired driving, driving with a blood alcohol concentration of more than 0.08, criminal negligence causing bodily harm or death, manslaughter, dangerous driving and failure to remain at the scene of a collision). It is estimated that approximately three quarters of those convictions are related to drinking and driving.

  • Impaired drivers are involved in thousands of traffic collisions every year.

  • Drunk driving accounts for almost 25% of all fatalities on Ontario's roads.

  • About 17,000 impaired driving incidents were reported by police in Ontario in 2005. In the same year, 174 people were killed and 3,852 were injured in motor vehicle collisions involving a drinking driver.


Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

The amount of alcohol in a person's body is measured by the amount of the alcohol in blood. This is called the blood alcohol concentration, or BAC.


For the purposes of law enforcement, BAC is used to define intoxication and provides a measure of impairment. In Ontario and the rest of Canada, the maximum legal BAC for fully licensed drivers is 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood (0.08). Driving with BAC in excess of 0.08 is a criminal offence.


BAC levels are affected by many factors, including:

  • How fast you drink. Alcohol consumed quickly will result in a higher BAC than when consumed over a long period of time.

  • Gender. Women generally have less water and more body fat per pound of body weight than men. Alcohol does not go into fat cells as easily as other cells, so more alcohol remains in the blood of women.

  • Body weight. The more you weigh, the more water is present in your body. This water dilutes the alcohol and lowers the BAC.

  • Amount of food in your stomach. Absorption is slowed if you've had something to eat.


With a BAC of 0.05, an individual's vision may already be affected in terms of sensitivity to brightness, the ability to determine colours, and depth and motion perception. The brain's ability to perform simple motor functions is diminished. This means that a driver's reaction time will be slower and responses will be less accurate. The result is degraded driving performance and a significant increase in collision risk.


The increased collision risk of drivers with a BAC from 0.05 to 0.08 (also known as the "warn range") is well documented:

  • Drivers with a BAC above 0.05 but below the legal limit are 7.2 times more likely to be in a fatal collision than drivers with a zero BAC.

  • In 2005, 16.7% of drinking drivers killed in Ontario had a BAC less than 0.08.


How much can I drink before I reach the 0.05 BAC limit?

The number of drinks consumed is a poor measure of BAC because of the many factors affecting your body's ability to digest alcohol, such as weight, body fat, and how long ago and how much you ate. Factors like tiredness and your mood can also make a difference in how alcohol affects your driving ability.It is very difficult to assess your own BAC or impairment. Small amounts of alcohol affect one's brain and the ability to drive. If you plan on drinking, plan to not drive.


NEW Roadside Licence Suspensions

We're serious about removing dangerous drivers from our roads. Those who choose to drive after drinking endanger themselves and everyone else.


Roadside licence suspensions ensure that drinking drivers are taken off the road immediately and discourage individuals from re-offending.


As of May 1, 2009, if you're caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) from 0.05 to 0.08 (known as the "warn range"), the police can immediately suspend your licence up to three days for a first occurrence, seven days for a second occurrence and 30 days for a third or subsequent occurrence.


Consequences for Driving with a 0.05 to 0.08 "Warn Range" Blood Alcohol Concentration
First Time

3-day licence suspension

$150 Administrative Monetary Penalty

Second Time (within 5 years)

7-day licence suspension

Mandatory alcohol education program

$150 Administrative Monetary Penalty

Third Time (within 5 years)

30-day licence suspension

Ontario.ca/drivesoberMandatory alcohol treatment program

Six-month ignition interlock licence condition

Subsequent infractions (within 5 years)

$150 Administrative Monetary Penalty

30-day licence suspension

Mandatory alcohol treatment program

Six-month ignition interlock licence condition

Mandatory medical evaluation

$150 Administrative Monetary Penalty






What happens if my licence is suspended?

You will be given a suspension notice by a police officer, indicating that the suspension of your licence takes effect immediately. The police officer will take your licence from you and send it back to the Ministry of Transportation (MTO).

You will not be able to drive home.

If you are with a sober passenger who is licensed and fit to drive, he or she may drive the vehicle. If it is a safe location, you can choose to leave the vehicle at the roadside, or the police will have the vehicle towed at the vehicle owner's expense.

What happens after the suspension period expires?

A reinstatement notice will be mailed to you. If you do not have other disqualifications (for example, other suspensions, expired or cancelled licence), the reinstatement notice will include a Temporary Driver's Licence (TDL). You may then go to a Driver and Vehicle Licence Issuing Office to pay the $150 administrative monetary penalty. A new plastic licence card will then be mailed to you.

If you did not receive a reinstatement notice, you may obtain a TDL from a Driver and Vehicle Licence Issuing Office.

To find the Driver and Vehicle Licence Issuing Office nearest you, please visit the MTO website.


If your suspension ends on a day when the Driver and Vehicle Licence Issuing Offices are closed (for example, a statutory holiday) and you did not receive a TDL in the mail, you will need to wait until they re-open. You must have a valid driver's licence to drive.

What does the Ignition Interlock condition mean?

If you receive a 30-day licence suspension, you will also automatically have an ignition interlock condition placed on your licence for six months. This means that you must not drive any vehicle that does not have an ignition interlock device installed. Drivers who choose not to install an ignition interlock device must not drive until the condition is removed from their licence. For more information, see the ignition interlock program on the MTO website.

How will I get my licence reinstated after the six-month ignition interlock period?

Whether you choose to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle or you choose not to drive during the ignition interlock period, the Ministry of Transportation will automatically mail you a reinstated licence that will be valid when the ignition interlock licence condition expires. For more information, see the ignition interlock program on the MTO website.

Find out more:

Please go to Ontario.ca/drivesober 


These roadside licence suspensions cannot be appealed. Suspensions will be recorded on the driver's record. For up to five years, these roadside suspensions will be considered when determining consequences for subsequent infractions..



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