Canadians Driving in the United States Involved in Fewer Alcohol-Related Fatal Accidents

Oct. 21, 2011
Never mind Canada’s storied beer-drinking culture: A new study shows that when our neighbors to the North drive in the United States, they are involved in fewer drunk driving-related fatal accidents than U.S. drivers.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy and Columbia University studied fatal car crashes in the United States and found that drivers with Canadian licenses were involved in fewer of these accidents than drivers with U.S. or Mexican licenses. In fatal crashes among U.S. and Mexican drivers, alcohol was involved in 27 percent of the cases. In fatal accidents among Canadian drivers, however, only 11 percent involved alcohol. Similarly, researchers found alcohol impairment in 23 percent of U.S. and Mexican drivers and 8 percent of Canadian drivers involved in a fatal crash.

Together, Mexican and Canadian drivers comprise more than 70 percent of all foreign-licensed drivers involved in fatal crashes in the United States. This new study conflicts with research from other countries that finds foreign drivers are at greater risk of crashes than native drivers.

“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,” said lead study author Susan P. Baker, a professor with the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, part of the Johns Hopkins 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.”

The researchers speculated 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 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) also were least common among Canadian-licensed drivers. Finally, it also is possible that Canadians are less likely to drive after drinking.

The report was published in the October issue of Injury Prevention.

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