Impact of COVID-19 on Impaired Driving: A Population-based Survey of Ontario Drivers

Author(s): Vingilis, Seeley, Beirness, Boase, Johnson, Jonah, Mann, Rapoport, Wickens

Slidedeck Presentation:

2022 CARSP Vingilis et al final



In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) a pandemic which was followed by a series of public health measures in Ontario. Early data from some Ontario police forces indicated increases in aggressive driving charges during the pandemic period compared to the same time period in 2019. Moreover, Ontario showed evidence of increased alcohol sales and self-reported drinking and cannabis use. Thus, changes may be occurring in attitudes and behaviours of transportation system users during the COVID-19 pandemic that may affecting road safety.


To develop, conduct and analyze a population-based panel survey of Ontario drivers on COVID-19 and transportation system use to examine self-reported changes in opinions, attitudes and behaviours associated with transportation use during the pandemic. Specifically, self-reported changes in alcohol and cannabis driving are examined, as well as other driving behaviours and types of road use.


The survey was developed using the “Expert Panel” method and questionnaire design procedures (Armstrong et al. 2006; Brancato et al. 2006; Krishner & Guyatt, 1985; Rodrigues et al. 2017; Stone 1993; Weiler, Sliepcevich & Sarvela, 1993; Wilson et al. 2012). This included five steps of specifying content, developing actual questions, constructing the questionnaire, pre-testing and field testing. The Expert Panel specified content and assessed content validity of all questions. Questions focused on self-reported experiences during the pandemic, namely: 1) driving frequency, 2) opinions on traffic and police enforcement, 2) changes in attitudes toward risky driving, public transportation use, etc., 3) driving behaviours, such as impaired driving, aggressive driving, collisions, etc., 4) distress, alcohol and cannabis use, as well as sociodemographic information including age, sex, licence type, years driving, employment situation, region, etc. The Survey Research Centre (SRC) at University of Waterloo conducted the panel survey.


Between October 15 - November 15, 2021, 1595 Ontario licensed drivers who had driven in the last year completed the survey. The panel survey sampled by quota the following groups: 16-17; 18-24; 25-34; 35-44; 45-54; 55-64; 65-79 and 80+ year olds by sex and type of community lived in (large urban centres, medium population centres, small population centres, rural populations). Currently the data are being cleaned and weighted by the SRC and will be available for our data analyses mid-December. We will conduct both descriptive and inferential analyses. Chi-squares and t-tests will be used to explore self-reported attitudinal and behavioural changes by age, sex, and other socio-demographic variables. Regression analyses will examine correlates of self-reported impaired driving.


This study will provide us with important information on the effects of the pandemic on self-reported behaviours associated with transportation use. Self-reported changes in driving after drinking, and after cannabis use will be captured as well as correlates on a representative sample of Ontarians.


Results will provide useful information to inform educational, legislative or enforcement strategies.