Canada’s recent legalization of marijuana raises the concern that some drivers on the road may be operating vehicles under the influence. Research has shown that in Canada, drug-impaired driving is on the rise, particularly among young drivers who are twice as likely to drive after smoking pot compared than they are to drive after drinking. Many pot users believe the myth that when using marijuana, they are better drivers with improved concentration. They may not be aware that marijuana impairs their judgement when driving. Using marijuana can compromise your ability to react quickly to an unexpected situation such as a person stepping onto the road, as well as compromise your judgement and your attention to road signs. This doubles the driver’s chances of getting into a motor vehicle accident. Marijuana is the most commonly found drug in drivers that were involved in fatal car accidents in the United States. Also 149 fatally injured Canadian drivers were tested positive for cannabis in 2014.
Marijuana can impair each person differently depending on a variety of factors such as the method of consumption (whether inhaled or ingested), the amount used, the variety of marijuana, its THC levels and many other factors. People also process THC–the ingredient responsible for marijuana’s high–at different rates. For some, the effects of marijuana can still be felt for more than 24 hours after consumption.
Some people who use marijuana claim to drive better after smoking weed, saying that it improves their concentration and therefore, their driving skills. Researchers have looked into these claims and have concluded that it can be true for only the first few minutes of driving.
When drivers are involved in motor vehicle crashes, the driver with THC in their blood were to be blamed for the accidents. In the U.S, research from the NHTSA indicated that when drivers are killed in motor vehicle crashes, drugs and alcohol are involved about 11 percent of the time. The report also shows an increase of drivers testing positive of having marijuana in their system and that 1 in 4 drivers tested in the survey also had THC in their bodies. This rise may be due to the recent legalization of medical and recreational cannabis in some U.S states.
There are also dangers around mixing alcohol and marijuana. One American study showed how driving skill is affected by marijuana or alcohol and their combined effects. The subjects were given various doses of marijuana with and without alcohol and were tested in normal traffic. The study concluded that when the subjects were given a low dose of THC, there was moderate levels of impairment but when the low dose of THC was combined with a low dose of alcohol, the driving skills were severely impacted.
In preparation for the legalization of marijuana, police across Canada received training to spot drug-impaired driving and to test whether the driver is impaired or not. According to the Government of Canada, since April 2014, there are 13,000 SFST (Standard Field Sobriety Test) trained officers and 833 certified DREs (Drug Recognition Experts). With legalization, new laws have been implemented to maintain the safety of the public. If you are caught impaired, the minimum penalty is a fine of $1000 with a 1-year suspension of your license. If an officer using an oral fluid drug screener detects 5 ng of THC per ml of blood in your system as a second offense, you will have to serve a mandatory minimum of 30 days imprisonment. The third offense has a mandatory minimum of 120 days.
All of this can be avoided if you plan ahead and find a safe way home. Just like how you have a designated driver when you go out to drink, the same goes when you are planning to use drugs such as marijuana. Be smart and don’t take a risk, call a friend to pick you up, take public transit or stay over. Your life isn’t worth driving impaired.