Marijuana use significantly impairs one’s driving ability by affecting judgement, motor coordination and reaction time. In fact, according to the most recent data from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, approximately 34 per cent of vehicle crash deaths can be linked to drug-impaired driving, which is nearly as many as those related to alcohol.
Drug-impaired driving occurs when an operator uses a motor vehicle while under the influence of illegal, prescription or over-the-counter drugs. Of these, marijuana is one of the most common, with studies suggesting that each year, approximately 632,600 Canadian drivers operate a vehicle two hours after smoking marijuana.
This is dangerous, as marijuana can impact one’s driving ability in the following ways:
- Reduces a driver’s ability to stay in the centre lane
- Impacts a driver’s ability to judge safe following distances
- Impairs a driver’s ability to make quick decisions regarding passing manoeuvres
- Makes it difficult for drivers to concentrate on the road
- Decreases a driver’s ability to accurately judge his or her driving speed
On December 1, 2017, new sections of The Cannabis Harm Prevention Act came into force in Manitoba. This is in preparation for the federal legalization of cannabis expected in Summer 2018.
The act provides police agencies with new tools to combat drug-impaired drivers. Including:
- A new 24-hour driver’s license suspension if a police officer believes the driving is under the influence of drugs and is incapable of driving.
- A requirement for the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to determine if new drivers who receive the 24-hour suspension should face further consequences.
- A new offense for consuming cannabis in or on a vehicle that is on a highway.
- A requirement that cannabis be stored in a secure compartment. I.e. the vehicle’s trunk, so that it is inaccessible to people in the vehicle. Similar to the rules about open liquor.
- Similar restrictions and prohibitions pertaining to cannabis use for individuals driving off-road vehicles
Driving under the influence of marijuana is especially common among young people, as around 22 per cent of Canadians ages 15 to 19 admitted to smoking at least once per year. Parents should speak to their children about the dangers of operating a vehicle under the influence of any substances that could impair their driving ability. However uncomfortable the conversation might be.
Drive safe out there!