Impaired Driving – Thunder Bay Takes a Huge Lead over Winnipeg and Sault Ste Marie

Impaired Driving numbers are up in Thunder Bay. What should be done?

THUNDER BAY – Thunder Bay Police Service has reported that in 2019 there were record numbers of impaired drivers charged in our city. These kinds of records are not the kinds of records our city should be setting. They point, perhaps, to a lack of results in our city to literally decades of public education.

Thunder Bay City Council is looking tonight at some issues with regard to driving in our city. Putting cameras on red lights so people can be mailed a ticket, and city administration is looking at community safety zones.

The issue of impaired driving in our city isn’t on the agenda – yet. However, it should be.

Impaired driving is a totally preventable crime. There is simply no excuse. It is an area where our city needs to start paying some serious attention to the problem.

Contrasting Thunder Bay to Winnipeg and Sault Ste Marie

In Thunder Bay, with a population of 109,000 people, twenty-six people were charged with impaired driving. Winnipeg has a population of 768,000 over seven times our population. In Winnipeg, there were thirty-three people charged with impaired driving-related offenses. Sault Ste Marie has a population of 74,000, there were eight people charged with impaired driving during the annual RIDE program.

Think of those numbers for a moment.

If Thunder Bay were the size of Winnipeg, we would have seen 182 people charged with impaired driving offenses.

The number of impaired charges per 100,000 of population in 24 for Thunder Bay and just over three per 100,000 for Winnipeg.

Compared to Sault Ste Marie, we are over three times the numbers in Impaired Driving charges.

Drinking and Driving still sadly seems far too acceptable in Thunder Bay.

Background on Impaired Driving Reported Numbers

The Winnipeg Police Service has reported the results of their holiday season efforts on impaired driving.

Final Checkstop Results:
• Total of 1373 vehicles was stopped
• 1191 roadside breath test were conducted, resulting in 20 WARNs and 11 FAILs
• 33 people were charged with Impaired Driving related charges (including one drug-impaired driver)
• 1 Oral fluid test was positive for THC (Cannabis) charges pending Toxicology results
• 5 people were issued administrative sanctions for blowing a FAIL on a roadside breath test (new Immediate Roadside Prohibition).
• 27 traffic tickets were issued

In Sault Ste Marie, the annual Festive RIDE (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere) Campaign launched Nov. 28, 2019, and ran through Jan. 1, 2020. We want to thank our law enforcement partners for their cooperation throughout the initiative. Our partners play a big role in helping us operate spot checks during the holiday season.

  vehicles checked
  three-day suspensions Issued
  roadside tests
  HTA charges
  .08 charges laid


Thunder Bay Police Service officers conducted over a dozen focused nighttime RIDE checkpoint programs, and members of the Traffic Unit conducted sobriety checks throughout the daytime, reminding motorists that impaired driving and the associated risks occur at all hours.

As a result of those efforts, 26 individuals were arrested and charged with the impaired operation, either by alcohol, drug, or both. In addition, 13 people were issued short-term licence suspensions for providing breath samples in the warning range. One person was issued a licence suspension for testing positive for drugs on approved drug screening equipment.

Novice and young drivers showed a marked increase in violation rates. Whereas in 2018, where only one such driver tested positive for alcohol or drug in any amount, seven novice and/or young drivers had their driving privileges suspended for three-day periods as a result of positive test results.

Other individuals charged were 15 suspended or prohibited drivers, 5 motorists for driving without automobile insurance, and 7 individuals either subject to arrest warrants or committing other criminal offences.

In total, it is estimated that officers interacted with nearly 1800 drivers this Festive RIDE season, and are pleased to report that the majority of drivers were doing so responsibly and with consideration for others sharing the roads.

What can be done?

The vast majority of people stopped in all three cities were driving and taking responsibility for their actions – That is very positive.

However for the number to continue to climb in Thunder Bay says there needs to be something done to start reversing the trend.

Is it stronger penalties? The penalties have been increased and yet here in our city the numbers have continued to climb.

Is it more education? Decades of education don’t seem to be changing the minds of some drivers in our city.

There must be a solution – just finding it seems to be the issue.

James Murray

Previous articleA Scout’s Guide to Winter: Cold-Weather Tips from Canada’s Youngest Outdoor Experts
Next articleStrong Shipping Season Reports the Port of Thunder Bay or NNL offers news, information, opinions and positive ideas for Thunder Bay, Ontario, Northwestern Ontario and the world. NNL covers a large region of Ontario, but are also widely read around the country and the world. To reach us by email: Reach the Newsroom: (807) 355-1862