HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Stoned Canadian Drivers Double Since '80s
Pubdate: Wed, 20 Dec 2006
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2006 Calgary Herald
Author: Janice Tibbetts, CanWest News Service
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Cannabis and Driving)


The number of Canadians who say they've driven after smoking drugs has
more than doubled since the late 1980s, according to a study that
reports young men drive while high just as often, or even more, than
they drink and drive.

Almost five per cent of the 4,639 drivers surveyed said they'd driven
within two hours of using marijuana or hashish in the previous year an
average of 24 times, said the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.

"The evidence we have is that the behaviour is increasing," said Doug
Beirness, senior research associate for the federally sponsored
agency. "Another factor that makes us believe it's an issue of concern
is that it seems to be most concentrated among young people."

Research remains inconclusive, however, on whether the hike in
drug-impaired driving has contributed to car crashes causing injuries
or death, said the study.

"The extent to which cannabis use by drivers contributes to serious
road crashes is difficult to determine, largely because of the poor
rates of testing for drugs other than alcohol," the report said.
"Nevertheless, it can be expected that as the prevalence of driving
under the influence of cannabis increases, the number of resulting
collisions will inevitably increase as well."

The survey was released a month after a federal bill was tabled to
catch drivers who smoke drugs before climbing behind the wheel.

The average age of those who drive under the influence of cannabis was
28.7 years, compared to 39.8 years for drinking and driving.

Twenty per cent of drivers under 20 reported they've driven under the
influence of drugs.

The study also reported that men were 3.6 times more likely than women
to smoke drugs and drive.

There's also reason to believe the overall numbers are much higher,
since people are reluctant to confess to illegal activity, said Beirness.

The study, based on data from the 2004 Canadian Addiction Survey,
revealed people feel a "false sense of security" that smoking drugs
doesn't impair their driving ability.

Also, they feel they are unlikely to get caught because, unlike the
breathalyser test for alcohol, there's no reliable test to detect
drug-impaired driving.

The study results are considered accurate within plus or minus 2.5
percentage points 19 times in 20.

Comparable studies conducted in 1988 and 1989 indicated that 2.1 per
cent and 2.3 per cent of Canadians, respectively, had driven after
taking drugs.

The increase in drug-impaired driving reflects an overall doubling in
the last 15 years of the number of people who reported smoking marijuana.

The 2004 study showed almost 30 per cent of 15- to 17-year-olds and 47
per cent of 18- to 19-year-olds reported using cannabis in the
previous year.

After two failed attempts by the former Liberal government, the
Conservative government introduced a bill in November proposing to nab
drug-impaired drivers with a battery of roadside tests, such as
walking a straight line. If a driver fails, he or she would then
undergo further testing at the police station and possibly be forced
to surrender blood, saliva or urine samples.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse recommends a federal campaign
against drug-impaired driving, targeting schools, driver licensing
offices and driver education programs.
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