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Accid Anal Prev. 1999 Sep;31(5):421-43.

Front-line police officers' practices, perceptions and attitudes about the enforcement of impaired driving laws in Canada.

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Road Safety Directorate, Transport Canada, Place de Ville, Ottawa, Ont., Canada.


A survey of front line police officers' practices, perceptions and attitudes regarding detection of impaired driving, processing of driving while impaired (DWI) charges, criminal court proceedings and DWI sanctions was conducted across Canada. A sample of 1545 officers of all jurisdictions across the country, representative of different types of police services (i.e. national, provincial, municipal) and types of policing (i.e. traffic, general duty) were surveyed by mail. The results, based on a 71% response rate, indicate that: an average of 7.5 charges/year are laid by officers resulting mainly from erratic driving; videotaping and mobile breath testing could improve efficiency of DWI enforcement; it takes an average of 2 h 48 min to process each DWI charge; about 2/3 of officers say plea bargaining occurs at least sometimes; the average length of DWI trial is over 4 h; less than half of officers think Crown Attorneys are adequately prepared for DWI cases; about 3/4 of officers think the accused escapes conviction on a legal technicality at least sometimes; about 30% of officers say short-term licence suspensions and other forms of discretion are used at least sometimes; DWI places fifth in priority among 15 offences, up from eighth in a 1981 survey; DWI is a priority for most police management but human resources are not adequate; and there is greater support for administrative than for Criminal Code changes. Multiple regressions indicated that the number of DWI charges laid by officers depended mainly on the officers' personal priority regarding DWI enforcement. The results suggest that many officers want to enforce DWI laws but that the numerous procedural and legal barriers that they confront often force them to exercise discretion in the laying of DWI charges.

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