Pubdate: Sat, 23 Jan 2016
Source: North Bay Nugget (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 North Bay Nugget
Author: Brian J. Patterson
Note: Brian J. Patterson, CFE, is president and CEO of Ontario Safety League
Page: A6


Will the importance of road safety be left in the dust when the smoke 
clears around the expanded use and distribution of marijuana?

With Canadian lawmakers and politicians shifting into high gear on 
the drive to legalize marijuana, there is a real risk that important 
questions about the impact on road safety in Ontario and across 
Canada will be left in the dust. This is one key area of concern for 
Ontario Safety League (OSL) as we move into 2016, and one of several 
challenging issues all road users will be confronting this year.

It's important to recognize that complacency is of one of the biggest 
dangers facing the organizations, agencies and individuals who work 
to keep Ontarians safe on the province's roads. This applies to many 
of the issues OSL will tackle on its agenda for 2016. OSL will be 
more proactive in finding innovative ways to combat distracted 
driving and the menace of repeat drunk-driving offenders.

On the cannabis issue, the danger is that groups with several very 
different agendas may end up controlling the public discussion. The 
legalization of marijuana is a significant safety concern, and OSL is 
here to prevent the discussion from being hijacked by those whose 
agenda is profit or popularity.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has committed his government to 
legalizing and regulating marijuana, and has said he is open to 
considering all "best practices" in that area. I must say that even 
though this is somewhat reassuring, there are other developments that 
are less reassuring: I would like to remind you of Ontario's 
suggestion that marijuana could potentially be sold at Liquor Control 
Board of Ontario (LCBO) stores.

It is a fact in the areas of public education and understanding that 
the impact of expanded cannabis use is similar in many situations to 
the historic issue around impaired driving.

Another danger lies in the fact that with its commitment to expanded 
use, the government has given no final decision on how to legalize 
and regulate marijuana. This leaves the door open for the dialogue to 
be hijacked by self-identified experts with self-centered, 
preconceived ideas and hidden agendas aimed at benefiting their own 
lifestyles and pocketbooks.

I can assure you there will be many who will show very little or no 
concern at all for protecting those on our roads. OSL will go all out 
in finding ways to educate and counter these individuals.

A person under the influence of cannabis and at the wheel is 
hazardous to himself or herself and to the general public. Driving 
under the influence of cannabis must not be allowed, for every life 
in Ontario is valuable.

Ontario Safety League believes it is necessary for all organizations 
aimed at preserving the safety of Ontarians to have more open 
dialogue and a unified voice on the issue. MADD Canada, Arrive Alive, 
Drive Sober, Accident Awareness, Ontario Safety League and Insurance 
Bureau of Canada (IBC) need to work together and ensure our voice is 
heard on this important matter.

IBC, for example, is developing a new road safety campaign in 2016 
called #likelife, which will look at a number of issues, including 
some related to those I've mentioned in this column.

We at OSL are proud to inform you that we have already taken a strong 
stand on the availability of drug paraphernalia in neighbourhood 
convenience stores. It's an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada 
to sell drug paraphernalia. Repeated investigations by our team have 
found that, nonetheless, it is still a widespread practice. We will 
continue our work on this.

We will create avenues for discussion about the right actions to take 
if cannabis is to be sold through LCBO stores. These actions will 
include ongoing public education and expanded counselling for 
marijuana consumers, for example. It is also important not to confuse 
medical use with expanded recreational use.

In contrast to the situation regarding cannabis, where the heavy 
lifting for road safety awareness still needs to be done, the 
question with regard to impaired and distracted driving is more one 
of keeping our eyes on the ball.

There have been vast shifts in awareness among the general populace, 
who now see impaired driving as a deeply reprehensible act. Most 
social drinkers have got the message and are less of an 
impaired-driving risk today.

Nonetheless, there still remains a small core of incorrigible drunk 
drivers who often commit repeated offences, despite having been 
punished. Many defy the driver's licence suspensions imposed on them 
by the courts and quickly offend again. Enforcement of licence 
suspension must be tightened, and that's another area we will focus on in 2016.

All told, 2016 is looking like a busy year for safety advocates in 
Ontario. Join us, and let's make all our voices heard in the 
intensifying push toward the legalization of marijuana, while we also 
stay on top of the impaired and distracted driving files.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us for further 
information on these or any related safety issues.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom