Canada Safety Council speak out about marijuana and driving

by Morinville News Staff

The Canada Safety Council and Public Safety Canada put out a message this week titled Marijuana and Motoring: Green Doesn’t Always Mean Go.

The organizations say there has been a concern since word of legalization about safety concerns and how roadside testing is one of the most critical challenges facing police services nationwide.

The two organizations have chosen National Safe Driving Week, (Dec. 1 – 7) to remind Canadians that enforcement only comes into play when the law is being broken. As such, they remind Canadians that it is their responsibility to ensure they 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?”

The organizations cite studies that show Canadians are concerned with the possibility of further impaired drivers. State Farm Insurance research in 2016 showed 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.

However, the Canada Safety Council and Public Safety Canada indicate cannabis carries several effects that make its combination with driving a potentially fatal one, claiming:

* 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.

Rather than oppose legalization, the Canada Safety Council and Public Safety Canada, say the simplest solution to avoiding potential problems 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,” reads the joint release. “When in doubt, err on the side of caution and wait the full six hours before driving.”

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