Marijuana and Motoring: Green Doesn’t Always Mean Go

National Safe Driving Week
December 1 – 7, 2017

Ever since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced plans to de-criminalize marijuana, there’s been a buzz around the country – pardon the pun – about safety concerns surrounding the announcement. Enforcement is a key prong of safety, and roadside testing is one of the most critical challenges facing police services nationwide. 

This year’s National Safe Driving Week, December 1 – 7, the Canada Safety Council wants to remind you that enforcement only comes into play when the law is being broken… and it’s your responsibility to ensure that you never drive under the influence of drugs.

“It’s a very dangerous idea to drive after consuming marijuana,” said Jack Smith, President of the Canada Safety Council. “There’s often a comparison made between driving drunk and driving high. Too often, the question becomes which is more dangerous. The real question should be, why risk either in the first place?”

over-the-shoulder driving

Studies show that Canadians are concerned with the possibility of further impaired drivers. Research done by State Farm Insurance in 2016 shows that more than 60 per cent of respondents foresee an increase in impaired driving when marijuana is legalized. 

Out of these same respondents, only one in 10 admitted to driving high – and 44 per cent of those who reported driving while high said it didn’t impact their ability to drive safely.

Indeed, the drug carries several effects that make its combination with driving a potentially fatal one:

  • Marijuana reduces reaction time. A slower reaction can quickly make the difference between a narrow miss and a fatal impact.
  • The passage of time feels altered. This can make a driver wait longer than necessary at a stop sign or green light, or it can have the inverse effect and make an impatient driver run through a red light. Neither result is positive as collisions are most easily avoided when everyone is driving predictably.
  • Drivers who consume marijuana and alcohol at the same time may experience a multiplicative effect of these drugs’ impacts on the body. In other words, drivers who have had a few drinks feel less impaired than they actually are, and precautions they might normally take – driving slower, being overly attentive – may disappear because of this feeling.

The simplest solution to avoiding this problem is to avoid driving after consumption of marijuana. The effects of marijuana typically last between one and six hours, depending on the amount and method of consumption. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and wait the full six hours before driving. If you absolutely must get somewhere, call a taxi or get a ride from a friend.

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For more information, please contact:

Lewis Smith
Manager, National Projects, Canada Safety Council
613-739-1535 x228

Raynald Marchand
General Manager, Programs, Canada Safety Council
613-739-1535 x226