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Fewer young drunk drivers in Yellowknife

Andrew Raven
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (July 06/05) - Anti-drunk driving advocates believe Yellowknife is bucking a national trend that shows young adults are still getting behind the wheel after drinking.

Nearly one third of alcohol-related car crashes involve Canadians under 25, according to a recent study from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

Those numbers have increased slightly over the last three years, with nearly 250 young people seriously injured in 2002-2003.

While few reliable statistics are available for the Northwest Territories, officials believe the rate of youthful drunk driving is on the decline in the capital.

"I think our students have got the message," said teacher Michelle Toms, an advisor with the Yellowknife chapter of Students Against Drinking and Driving.

"Kids are aware of the dangers. And more than that, we see them looking out for each other if they are drinking."

Nationally, the accident rate among Canadians under 25 has remained relatively steady in provinces where the legal drinking age is 19. But in jurisdictions where the drinking age is 18, those numbers have skyrocketed by nearly 50 per cent since 2000-2001.

The majority of accidents involving young adults occur on weekends (77 per cent) and at night (72 per cent.), the study reported.

Car crashes overall account for nearly 50 per cent of all serious alcohol-related injuries, according to the study.

Impaired driving remains a serious problem in the Northwest Territories. The jurisdiction has by far the highest rate in the country at nearly six times the national average, according to Statistics Canada.

About 275 people were charged with drunk driving, three with impaired driving causing death and five with impaired driving causing bodily harm, during 2003.

Yellowknife police receive on average about 17 drunk driving complaints per month.

Impaired drivers "need to understand their actions can affect other people," Toms said. "And you do not have the right to do that."

More checkstops

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sgt. Darcy Fleury said police will conduct multiple check stops this summer to check for drunk driving and other traffic violations.

"The message we are telling people is fairly clear," Fleury said.

"Alcohol and driving do not mix."

The Canadian Institute for Health Information is a non-profit organization that compiles statistics on health-related issues from across the country.