Car keys and cannabis. (Photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / mcmaster9)

CAA: Thousands of Ontario drivers consuming cannabis before they drive

With cannabis legalization quickly approaching, the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) is raising some concerns about drivers who are getting high before they get behind the wheel.

It’s also finding that drivers who consume cannabis before they drive share some of those concerns.¬†According to a release from CAA, new research shows that 1.9 million Ontario motorists have driven under the influence of cannabis and more than 735,000 have done so in the last three months.

The CAA commissioned Ipsos study conducted in July 2018 surveyed 1,000 Ontario drivers over the age of 19 and found that, of those who were surveyed, the ones who admitted to driving under the influence of cannabis were more likely to be male, between the ages of 25 and 34, and novice drivers.

“The fact that those who drive under the influence of cannabis are more likely to be young, novice drivers, with less experience on the road, is something we should all be concerned about,” said Elliott Silverstein, manager of government relations with CAA South Central Ontario.

CAA officials say the results of the study also raise concerns about people who are consuming more than one substance before they hit the road — it said an estimated 205,800 Ontario drivers admit to drinking alcohol and using cannabis at the same time before getting behind the wheel this summer.

“Road safety needs to be prioritized as a leading issue as cannabis becomes legal in coming weeks,” said Silverstein. “But it’s clear that the focus can’t solely be on cannabis-impaired driving.”

Ontario currently has a zero-tolerance approach (no alcohol or drugs) for drivers with G1/G2 licenses, but CAA officials believe more steps need to be taken to keep motorists safe.

“We need to take an integrated view of the dangerous behaviours that impact road safety in Ontario and focus public education and enforcement efforts accordingly,” said Silverstein.

CAA officials say their recent research goes on to show that a “common perception” that cannabis users feel they can drive better under the influence of the drug, may not be so common.

The study found that a majority of current cannabis users who drive are concerned that there will be more cannabis impaired drivers on the road and that more than half of the respondents feel they drive worse than a sober driver when they’re under the influence of cannabis.