Weeding out Alberta's sentiments on driving high
* 61 per cent of Albertans believe our roads will become more dangerous with the planned legalization of marijuana
* 57 per cent of Albertans believe impaired driving will increase if marijuana is legalized
* AMA and CAA calling for public education; clear, enforceable laws; resources for roadside enforcement
While polls suggest Canadian support for legalizing marijuana, that sentiment goes up in smoke when it comes to driving, according to a Canadian Automobile Association survey released today.
Fully 63 per cent of Canadians, and 61 per cent of Albertans, believe our roads will become more dangerous with the planned legalization of marijuana in spring 2017. A further 63 per cent of Canadians, and 57 per cent of Albertans, predict an increase in impaired driving once marijuana gets the government’s rubber stamp, while fewer than a quarter of Canadians and Albertans think police are adequately prepared (23 and 22 per cent, respectively).
“We need to make sure that road safety is a top priority as marijuana is legalized,” said Jeff Walker, vice-president of public affairs for CAA National. “This is clearly a key issue for Canadians, and they are right to be worried.”
Sixty-one per cent of Canadians, and 59 per cent of Albertans, say marijuana is as much a threat – or even greater – than alcohol behind the wheel. Similarly, nearly three-quarters of Canadians (73 per cent) and Albertans (72 per cent) believe marijuana-use impairs a driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle.
These concerns dovetail with a study by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse showing that marijuana doubles the risk of crash involvement. The challenge for law enforcement, however, is that there remains a lack of evidence to support a specific nanogram limit of THC, and the extent to which that limit is linked to actual impairment.
“Unlike alcohol, where a tried-and-tested approach to measuring blood alcohol concentration offers an accurate read on impairment, the effects of marijuana can be difficult to quantify,” said Jeff Kasbrick, VP of Government and Stakeholder Relations with AMA. “That’s why AMA, alongside CAA, is calling for ongoing government funding for improved measurement tools to recognize drugged driving.”
CAA has met extensively with the federal government to press it to allocate dedicated funding for public education campaigns that debunk myths and educate Canadians on the effects marijuana has on driving. CAA is also looking for clear and meaningful laws that discourage Canadians from choosing to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana, and enhanced resources to support law enforcement so Canadians take the law seriously.
A CAA-commissioned study, also released today, looked at the priorities provincial and federal governments need to focus on as they prepare to legalize marijuana. That study, conducted by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, found:
- Public education is required well in advance of legislation.
- It could take 18 to 24 months for provincial and territorial governments to implement drugged driving policy. Provincial agencies are waiting for direction from federal agencies and believe better and more communication would be helpful to avoid duplicating efforts.
- There are substantial cost implications associated with training police officers to recognize drugged driving, roadside devices and test analysis, data collection and public education initiatives.
The full report is available at caa.ca/drugdriving.
Findings in this news release are based on a CAA poll of 2,012 Canadians. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of +/-2.2%, 19 times out of 20.
The Alberta Motor Association (AMA) is among the largest membership organizations in Alberta, representing more than 950,000 members. As a leading advocate for traffic safety, travel and consumer protection and crime prevention, AMA represents the interests of its members to industry and all levels of government and helps protect the things they care about most. Visit ama.ab.ca to learn more about AMA’s products, services and member advocacy efforts.