HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html If You Toke, Don't Drive
Pubdate: Fri, 09 Dec 2005
Source: Comox Valley Record (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 Comox Valley Record
Author: Matthew Plumtree, and Neil Horner
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Cannabis and Driving)


Young drivers are being warned by the Canadian Public Health
Association to think twice before toking up and hitting the road.

Local medical health officer Charmaine Enns is getting on board the
campaign by the CPHA to put the brakes on drivers who smoke up before
getting behind the wheel.

The Pot and Driving Campaign is an attempt to raise awareness about
the dangers and prevalence of driving while impaired by pot.

Launched in November, the campaign focuses on the need for some of the
misconceptions about marijuana use to be dispelled and for parents to
talk to their children and friends about the issue.

"The focus is on young people 14 to 25 years old," Enns said in an
interview. "In Canada we boast the highest use of pot in the world but
there's a naivete surrounding young drivers; they think driving drunk
is bad, they don't think that driving on pot is bad."

Enns said that the incidence of traffic accidents where pot use is
implicated is rising and that young drivers especially don't realize
that getting high affects driving ability.

"It affects your ability to drive defensively; your ability to stay in
your own lane. You drive slower, but your reaction time is down."

A certain amount of multi-tasking is required while driving and with
the short-term memory loss associated with pot, driving ability is
again affected, Enns noted.

One study, she said, indicated that as many as 20 per cent of high
school students drive within an hour of smoking up, something she
called scary.

Nanaimo Medical health officer Fred Rockwell, who first publicized the
CPHA study, says he believes the issue should be one that gets a
higher profile.

"Injuries in motor vehicle collisions are a major cause of injury and
death in our province and impaired driving, with alcohol or marijuana,
is a concern," he said.

According to the association, the knowledge of how to drive becomes
part of the long-term memory. While it may appear people drive without
thinking, drivers still need to be alert to things around them. When
people are high on marijuana, says the CPHA, their minds have a
tendency to drift

This makes it harder to pay attention to conditions and hazards on the

Rockwell said education has to be part of the strategy used to deal
with the issue, but he stressed that society's attitudes have to change.

"It has to be a slow process of changing attitudes to the point where
it is not acceptable to drive under the influence of pot," he stated.

For more information on the Pot and Driving Campaign, visit
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