WINGHAM, ONT. -- After years of decline, or at least plateauing, Huron County is reporting a 35 per cent increase in impaired driving charges, between 2019 and 2020.

“That’s a pretty big jump for our county,” says Huron OPP Cst., Jamie Stanley.

“We have to go back five years, when we last saw numbers like that in Huron County,” he says.

Huron County charged 88 people with impaired driving offences in 2020, compared to 65 charges in 2019.

Places like Lambton County saw 116 impaired driving charges, Perth County had 53, and South Bruce 55. Stanley doesn’t think the pandemic and lockdowns are totally to blame, because Huron County was the only region to see such a large increase, especially among drivers under the age of 30.

“It’s disturbing, and unfortunate to see that. Particularly because we did see a lot of younger drivers being charged,” says Stanley.

That’s both disappointing, and not surprising for Matt Evans, who represents Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving (OSAID) in Huron/Perth/Bruce/Grey County.

“It’s not 1977, we’ve had this messaging for 40 years,” says Evans.

In the mid-90s, there were 500 OSAID chapters in the province, and impaired driving among teens dropped in half, say Evans. There are now only a handful of OSAID chapters in Ontario high schools, which he thinks may have played a role the rise in charges in Huron County.

“What resonated with you; your friends telling you to make a responsible choice, or a whole series of messaging. It really boiled down to what your friends did,” says Evans.

Evans is organizing some virtual webinars this spring, to try and reinvigorate the OSAID program in Midwestern Ontario.

That can’t come soon enough, especially in Huron County, where impaired driving is making an unfortunate comeback.

“The vast majority of drivers don’t drive impaired, but we want to get to a point where there’s zero impaired drivers. So, we’ve got a long way to go, to reach that,” says Stanley.

Here’s some more of the numbers from Huron County last year.

  • 32 per cent of impaired driving charges resulted in crashes, including two fatalities
  • 49 per cent of cases originated from a call from the public to alert police of a possible impaired driver
  • 46 per cent of drivers charged blew over twice the legal limit
  • 80 per cent of those charged were men, and 48 per cent of them were under the age of 30
  • South Huron had the most impaired driving charges, with 19 of the 88 charged last year