Canadians understand risk of driving high but don’t know legal framework

Published: October 10, 2018

Updated: October 11, 2018

Author: Luke Jones

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While most Canadian motorists know driving when high on pot is both illegal and a safety risk, many are still unclear on the implications on impaired driving from Marijuana use. Considering the federal government’s Cannabis Act will become law on Oct. 17, the lack of driver knowledge is worrying.

Ahead of the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, a recent Leger poll conducted for the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) shows eighty-four per cent of 1,517 participants believe impaired driving with pot if a risk to road safety. Indeed, seven out of 10 say driving high is as dangerous as impaired driving with alcohol.

While motorists are aware of the dangers of driving high, most don’t understand levels of marijuana impairment and its differences to alcohol. 43% of respondents do not know the waiting time between consuming cannabis and being able to legally driver. Furthermore, 61% think they can drive safely less than three hours after consuming marijuana.

There is also a knowledge gap regarding how authorities will police impaired driving with cannabis, with 60% of Canadians believing police have systems like alcohol breathalyzer tests.

“Drinking and driving is now socially unacceptable,” IBC president and CEO Don Forgeron commented on the Leger poll results. “Unfortunately, we can’t assume the same for driving while under the use of cannabis. We need the same approach to deterrence – appropriate penalties and detection tools – to discourage all forms of impaired driving so that broader use of legalized cannabis doesn’t put public safety at risk.”

Increasing Use

IBC says it is concerned legalization of marijuana will increase pot usage and result in more motorists getting behind the wheel while high.

“What is more troubling is that one in 10 of those respondents believed cannabis makes a person a ‘better driver,’” IBC said.