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Published on January 16th, 2018 | by Elisa Birnbaum

A Wish for Driver Safety.

As is customary in the early days of a new year, we’d like to usher in 2018 with our personal wish and resolution for the year ahead. At CAA South Central Ontario (SCO), our hope is for everyone to stay safe on the roads and we resolve to remain committed to helping make that possible.

Our wish has special resonance this year as we count down to the passing of Bill C-45 this summer, which will legalize the use of cannabis in Canada. As the leading advocate for road safety, CAA is working with all levels of government to keep our objective front and centre once the legalization comes into effect.

With each province left to determine how marijuana will be sold, used and legislated, we’re encouraged by Ontario’s recent decision to establish new rules that will toughen drug-impaired driving laws. The new measures (including a zero tolerance approach for young, novice and commercial drivers) will align with the existing penalties for impaired driving convictions.

That reality is particularly significant in light of the 2014 Ontario Collision Data, which indicates that 29% of all road fatalities involved drugs or alcohol. Furthermore, additional government data shows that 14.5% of randomly selected drivers tested positive for alcohol, drugs or both with cannabis being the most common drug found.

Ontario’s legislation may also come as good news to the 66% of respondents who told us that they expect to see an increase in marijuana-impaired driving and collisions after Bill C-45 comes into law.

The growing concern over road safety due to cannabis cannot be overstated. Our study, conducted by Ipsos last August, asked 1,000 Ontario drivers to share their thoughts on marijuana use, its potential impact on the roads and their suggestions on how to approach impaired driving policies and education strategies. The responses are compelling and will help us to validate our important work ahead.

Road safety is evidently on the minds of many Ontarians, as 77% of respondents said it will be a concern once cannabis is legalized. Still, over 485,000 drivers (two out of every 10 users) admitted to driving under the influence of marijuana in the last three months. In addition, while a significant portion of Ontario drivers surveyed (72%) believe that cannabis impairs one’s ability to drive, 17% don’t feel the drug can impact their capacity on the road. That belief can prove dangerous, possibly even fatal. This is the reason why CAA is dedicated to helping drivers to stay informed on the very real dangers of using cannabis before getting behind the wheel.

We also found that respondents are searching for answers and more information, as 74% indicated they want to learn about cannabis-impaired driving laws and penalties. A focus on education was also evident when respondents were asked for suggestions on how to prevent marijuana-impaired driving. Their number one idea was more public awareness campaigns. Other suggestions included stronger penalties, large fines, education of health risks and suspension or loss of licence.

As a champion of safer roads, CAA has shared the findings of this study with government representatives and will continue to offer our advice and support to create effective public educational campaigns. Looking ahead, we’re hopeful that the Ontario government will maintain its focus on stricter laws, that other provinces will follow suit and that, with our help, our fellow drivers will find much to be thankful for in 2018.

For more information, visit www.caa.ca/drugdriving.

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