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Cannabis doubles your risk of a collision.

Things are changing in Canada with regards to the use of cannabis. Regardless of how you feel about the legalization of non-medical cannabis, it is important for us all to increase our efforts to reduce the health risks from use. Let’s focus on the known facts and take positive actions to help everyone stay safe. Let’s increase our understanding and get rid of some harmful misconceptions. Driving while impaired by cannabis, AKA high IS dangerous. It is important that parents talk with their young drivers so that they understand the risks of driving high and of getting in the car with an impaired driver. Also consider being a positive example of never driving while impaired. 

The evidence strongly suggests that cannabis-impaired driving increases the crash risk two to three times (Hall, 2015).

How does cannabis impair my driving ability?
Cannabis is concerning as it affects your ability to function at your best. There is a misconception that using cannabis makes you a better driver, the physical and mental effects of cannabis makes driving dangerous. Things could change in an instant that could cause harm to yourself or others. If you are high, you will not be able to react quickly. It is important to NOT drive a vehicle while cannabis is in your system. Don’t Drive High. Depending on how you react to the concentration and type of cannabis used, the effects could be more immediate or delayed and can last for a shorter or longer time. This is why it is recommended to wait at least 6 hours or longer after using cannabis before driving. There is also a greater increase in the risk of a collision if cannabis and alcohol are combined.

Cannabis use alters several skills needed to drive, including:  

  • Cognition (the way you process thoughts).
  • Attention.
  • Memory.
  • Decision-making.
  • Psychomotor skills (mind-body interactions).

Can I be charged with impaired driving if I get caught? 
In Ontario, as of July 1st, 2018 there is a zero tolerance level of cannabis for novice and young drivers, and commercial drivers. This means that  NO level of cannabis is allowed for these drivers. Adults - wouldn’t it be great to lead by example and follow these same rules? Enforcement is gearing up and is in the process of having more officers trained as drug recognition experts (DRE). There is a roadside Standardized Field Sobriety test that can also help detect impairment. There has been an increase in the fines for those that fail the examination by a DRE or the roadside test. If a driver fails the test, they can be immediately suspended from driving and face criminal impaired driving charges. 

It is within your control to prevent injuries. At all times everyone should use this level of control. Let’s improve the statistics and make things better. As it stands now, injury is the leading cause of death for Canadians aged one to 44. Injury claims the lives of more children in Canada than all other causes. Besides when driving, it is advisable to avoid using cannabis while operating heavy machinery and during activities that require your full attention, such as playing sports or performing work-related tasks. The risk of injury can also be subtle. Even on a normal day when someone is walking, they can experience a fall. Using cannabis could increase one’s risk of a fall due to a delay in how well you can respond to something unexpected (e.g. uneven pavement, icy conditions). The most effective way to avoid a cannabis-related health risk is to NOT use cannabis. This is the first recommendation set out in Canada’s Lower Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines.

What can I do to protect myself and others on the road?
Let’s all make unsafe behaviours from cannabis use that cause preventable injuries unthinkable and unacceptable. Let’s keep everyone safe on the road by knowing the facts about cannabis and driving. If you are planning to use cannabis, be responsible and plan ahead: use public transit, arrange a designated driver, call someone who is dependable for a ride, take a cab or ride-share, or consider a stay over to sleep it off. 

Using the words of our Canadian Government: Don’t Drive High. Your life can change in an instant.

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