James G. Wigmore, Forensic Toxicologist, Speaker, Author

With just over a week before the BIG day, my thoughts recently turned to Christmases past. I used to dread the Xmas/New Year holiday season when I worked at the Centre of Forensic Sciences in the 1970s and 1980s.  The number of blood samples submitted to the lab from victims of alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes climbed and climbed during December as the alcohol-fueled festivities mounted.  It was quite depressing and seemed to be insolvable.

Amazingly, now December is one of the lowest months with alcohol-related driving incidences, deaths and injuries.  Some traffic researchers have called this phenomenon “the December Dip”.  This is due to many factors including increased media publicity against drinking-driving, less emphasis on alcohol at office Xmas parties and related dram shop legislation, designated drivers, increased taxi rides/public transit paid for by companies, and high publicity police spot checks.

Weekends with Highest Number of Impaired Driving Incidents

An interesting confirmation of the December Dip is the recently published Impaired Driving Data in Canada for 2011 which, among other fascinating data, lists the 10 worst weekends and the 10 best weekends for impaired driving incidents in Canada.  Weekends include the period from Friday, midnight to Sunday at 11:59 p.m.

Although this data is from Canada and the holidays are slightly different from the US, a similar pattern occurs, except that you substitute the Super Bowl for the Grey Cup, Canada Day for Independence Day, and a different date for Thanksgiving.

Weekends with the Lowest Number of Impaired Driving Incidents

The data for the previous year (2010) also showed a similar pattern in which the 2 weekends with the lowest number of impaired driving incidents in Canada were New Year’s (Jan 1 to 3) and Christmas (Dec 24 to 26).

So, amazingly, the one time of year that used to have some of the highest rates of alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes has been transformed due to the hard work of the police and other groups, into one of the safest times of the year.

Thank you to all of you who continue to make Christmas and New Year’s safe. I know you rarely get thanked so, from me to you, THANK YOU and have a Happy and Safe Holiday!


Perrault, S., “Impaired Driving in Canada, 2011, Statistics Canada

In Remembrance – Norman Shaw

One of the persons who assisted tremendously in making Ontario a safer place and reduce traffic deaths and injuries, passed away recently on November 30th, 2014.  He was Sergeant Norman (Norm) Shaw of the Ontario Provincial Police.

I first met Norm at the Centre of Forensic Sciences in the late 1970s when he was seconded to the lab as the Breathalyzer Field Coordinator.  He was extremely dedicated, selfless and hard working.

He travelled around this huge province checking out Breathalyzer locations and requalifying Breathalyzer technicians and increasing their confidence and expertise.  He also taught on the 2 week Breathalyzer Technician training course conducted at the lab six times a year.  He had a photographic memory and knew every part of the Borkenstein Breathalyzer in detail.  There was not a Breathalyzer he couldn’t repair.  After he returned to traffic, it required 2 OPP officers to replace him.  It was such an honour and a privilege working with him over the years that I included him in the Acknowledgments to my book – Wigmore on Alcohol.

He is survived by his wife of 35 years, Sandra and a brother Robert. Those of you who knew and were touched by Norm are welcome to add comments about him to this blog.