Research Papers

Effects of introducing an administrative 0.05% blood alcohol concentration limit on alcohol-related collisions in Canada

Version 1
Date added June 17, 2014
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Category 2014 CMRSC XXIV Vancouver
Tags Research and Evaluation, Session 1C
Author/Auteur Étienne Blais, François Bellavance, Alexandra Marcil
Stream/Volet Research and Evaluation

Slidedeck Presentation Only (no paper submitted)

1C Blais_Effects of Introducing an Administrative point 05 percent Blood Alcohol Concentration Limit



In 2010, 2,541 persons died in a motor vehicle crash in Canada and 11,338 were seriously injured. Alcohol was respectively involved in 38.7 and 18.9% of these crashes. Among those fatally injured in traffic crashes, 1,372 (54%) were drivers and 37.4% of them had been drinking, most (83.1%) above the legal limit of a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% (Traffic Injury Research Foundation, 2013). As observed in other countries, driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) is still one of the leading causes of fatal and serious injury crashes in Canada.

Worldwide, several jurisdictions have lowered the legal BAC limit to 0.05% or even lower. Recent studies reported that lowering the BAC limit is an effective strategy to prevent alcohol-related collisions. Moreover, lowering the legal BAC limit affects drivers of all drinking levels.

Except for the province of Quebec, all other Canadian provinces have “administrative” BAC laws, making it impermissible to drive or have care of a motor vehicle at levels of 0.05%. Although no criminal offense is created, drivers found to operate or have care of a vehicle with a BAC equal or over 0.05% can be issued a temporary licence suspension. Most studies have assessed the impact of lowering the legal BAC limit under the criminal code. One study has examined the impact of a 12-hour licence suspension law introduced in Ontario in 1981. The results indicate that the administrative 0.05% BAC law may have had a small, short-term effect on the proportion of alcohol-related fatalities.


The objective of this study is to further our understanding about the effects of administrative BAC laws on alcohol-related collisions in Canada.


The number and percentage of fatally injured drivers with 0.0%, from 0.01% to 0.049%, 0.05% to 0.08%, 0.081% to 0.16% and over 0.16% were extracted from the annual reports produced by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation on the “alcohol-crash problem in Canada” for each one of the ten Canadian provinces for the years 1987 to 2010. Dummy variables were created to indicate the year where provinces introduced or modified their administrative BAC laws. Models for panel data that combine times series and cross-sectional data were used to assess the effect of administrative BAC laws in Canadian provinces. Few additional control variables were considered in the models (e.g. number of police officers per capita, alcohol consumption per capita).


Some of the models evaluated show a statistically significant effect of administrative BAC laws in reducing the percentage of fatally injured drivers with BAC above 0.05% (or increasing the percentage of fatally injured drivers with 0.0% and below 0.05% BAC).


Administrative BAC laws aimed at increasing the certainty and celerity of sanctions (in this case, the driver licence is immediately suspended) are effective.

Étienne Blais, François Bellavance, Alexandra Marcil