Too many Canadians drive while stoned

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If you were to ask any road safety expert, law enforcement officer, or car accident lawyer how marijuana effects driving ability, you’d get the same answer: it increases risk of collision and puts fellow road users at risk.

Many Canadian cannabis users, unfortunately, appear to disagree. According to Statistics Canada’s most recent national cannabis survey, one in seven active marijuana users has driven within two hours of smoking in the previous three months. Additionally, five per cent of respondents said they’d been a passenger in a vehicle driven by someone who had consumed marijuana within two hours or driving.

Why do people engage in these risky behaviours? The Globe and Mail’s Darren Calabrese recently spoke with patrons of Halifax’s High Life Social Club to find out. Several interviewees admitted to driving while stoned or knowing someone who drives while stoned. One person said her friend passed her driving test while high; another suggested that marijuana helped them relax and focus on the road. Several insisted they would never drive while drunk.

“We used to say the same thing about drinking and driving,” Robert Mann, a researcher at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, told Calabrese. “’I can have a few drinks and it relaxes me.’ ‘I can have one for the road.’ The clear message is that using cannabis increases your risk of an accident.”

That message is supported by a large and growing body of scientific evidence. A French study revealed that drivers with marijuana in their system were twice as likely to be responsible for a fatal accident than a sober driver. Norwegian researchers found that driving while under the influence of cannabis increases crash risk by 30 per cent.

With the increased risk of collision due to marijuana intoxication now an established fact, every police officer and car accident lawyer in Canada must confront the possibility that road safety will suffer when recreational cannabis is legalized this October. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale remains confident that it will not.

“The problem exists right now,” he told reporters in response to StatsCan’s latest survey, according to the CBC. “Driving under the influence of drugs has been an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada since 1925. The approaches that we have had over the years, of focusing on complete prohibition, have obviously not succeeded.”

About 16 per cent of Canadians aged 15 and up reported using marijuana in the StatsCan report, equivalent to roughly 4.6-million people. The overwhelming majority (82 per cent) said they don’t plan to increase their consumption following legalization.

If you or a member of your family have been injured in a traffic accident, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to speak with an experienced car accident lawyer. Our team can assess the viability of your claim and provide access to resources that will aid your recovery.

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Greg Neinstein
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