Driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs carries serious consequences.
The Traffic Injury Research Foundation determined that, in 2013, of Alberta drivers killed in collisions, more than one in four was over the legal limit for alcohol, and one in two had used drugs.
“Both alcohol and drugs impair a driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle. Statistics show that more than a quarter of drivers killed in collisions in Alberta were drunk, and even more were high.
“That is a tragic, criminal and entirely preventable loss of life. Police will lay charges and, yes, they can detect drug use,” said Brian Mason, minister of transportation.
Impaired driving comes in many forms – alcohol, drugs (including over-the-counter, prescription and illegal), distraction and fatigue.
On average each year over the past five years, there were 7,550 Criminal Code convictions for impaired driving in Alberta.
“Impaired driving is a crime regardless of whether impairment is caused by alcohol or any other drug. Everyone has a role to play in traffic safety. Please take time to plan for a sober ride to and from your destinations this holiday season,” Supt. Gary Graham, officer in charge, Alberta Traffic Services.
Drug-impaired driving, including cannabis-impaired driving, has been a crime since the 1920s and is detected and prosecuted regularly in Alberta.
“SADD Alberta encourages drivers to plan ahead this holiday season. Whether it’s at the end of the night or just trying to juggle busy schedules, it’s important for everyone to drive sober, stay focused on the task of driving and avoid rushing. Friends who ride as passengers must also keep in mind how their actions may affect the driver,” said Arthur Lee, provincial community liaison, Students Against Drunk Driving.
Meanwhile, drivers convicted of an impaired driving offence have to install an ignition interlock device.
The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction also found that cannabis creates performance deficits in many skills required to drive safely, such as tracking, reaction time, visual function, concentration, short-term memory and divided attention.
Simulated and on-road studies of driving performance found using cannabis increased a driver’s likelihood of swerving, as well as showed an inability to maintain a safe distance and difficulty controlling speed.
According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, driving under the influence of cannabis (DUIC) costs an estimated $1 billion per year in Canada today, according to a 2017 CCSA-led study, ‘Estimating the Harms and Costs of Cannabis-Attributable Collisions in the Canadian Provinces.’
It estimates the cost by studying DUIC associated fatalities, injuries and damage to property in the Canadian provinces and territories in 2012.
The highest costs are associated with fatalities, with young adults between the ages of 16–34 accounting for two-thirds of all DUIC fatalities.
Other key findings included that in 2012, cannabis collisions in Canada resulted in an estimated 75 fatalities, 4,407 injuries and 7,794 victims of property damage only (PDO) collisions, with an estimated economic and social cost of approximately $1 billion.
The highest costs are associated with fatalities, accounting for more than 58% of the costs.
While less than fatalities, injury costs and costs related to PDO collisions are also substantial.
Sixteen to 34-year-olds represent only 32% of the Canadian population, but 61% of the cannabis-attributable fatalities.
This group also disproportionately represents 59% of the cannabis-attributable injuries and 68% of the people involved in cannabis-attributable PDO collisions.