Impairment and Driving Don’t Mix

May 9, 2019

With the warm weather finally making itself seen around Canada, the nation is collectively letting out a sigh of relief. Flowers are blooming. Cottages are being opened, and the May long weekend offers an excellent opportunity to go on a road trip!

This May long weekend also coincides with 2019’s National Road Safety Week, held May 14 – 20. The Canada Safety Council would like to take this opportunity to remind you that impairment and driving do not mix. When you get behind the wheel in a state of intoxication, whether from alcohol or drugs, you put your own life as well as the lives of other road users in danger.

It should come as no surprise that impairment behind the wheel is dangerous, reckless and selfish – historical safety messaging has been abundant on this topic. And yet, while the statistics show gradual decline in impaired driving incidents, the latest reported numbers are still concerning.

According to Statistics Canada, 72,039 impaired driving incidents were reported in 2015, representing a rate of 201 incidents per 100,000 population. This is the lowest rate since impaired driving statistics began being collected in 1986; however, impaired driving continues to be the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada.

The above statistic includes approximately 3,000 drug-impaired incidents, seven of which were fatal incidents and 19 of which bodily harm. It’s worth noting that these statistics do not reflect any effect the nationwide legalization of cannabis may have had on the Canadian road landscape.

Cannabis and alcohol impairment do not share identical characteristics. The effects of drunk driving, of course, are well documented. A drunk driver may feel more compelled to take risks, speed and generally act recklessly. They may also experience decreased concentration, slower reaction times and an altered sense of vision and hearing.

While cannabis users may also experience slower reaction times, the difference in the intoxicants comes from how the user reacts. Generally, cannabis users will leave more space between themselves and the next vehicle, while also driving at slower speeds. The danger here lies in a high driver’s unpredictable nature – for instance, a cannabis-impaired driver may stay stopped at a stop sign or light for longer than expected.

Additionally, motor coordination and decision-making skills can be impaired under the influence of cannabis.  And, when mixed with alcohol, the impairing effects can become multiplicative and exponentially more dangerous.

Don’t take the risk. If you’re driving, stay sober. If you had intended on driving but over-consumed, leave the car parked. Sleep it off if you can, or get a ride home from a friend, a family member, a taxi, a ride-share or an alternate means of transportation. But whatever you do, do not get behind the wheel. It’s every Canadian’s responsibility to keep our roads safe for everyone.

For more information, please contact:
Lewis Smith
Manager, National Projects, Canada Safety Council
media@safety-council.org
613-739-1535 x228

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