Marijuana-related road deaths outpacing alcohol

Published: December 5, 2017

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones



Canada will legalize recreational use of cannabis in 2018 and open a proverbial can of worms for police and insurers. Authorities are still wrestling with how to catch impaired drivers under the influence of drugs, while insurance companies are debating the ramifications of coverage. All the while, marijuana is trending as a bigger killer on Canada’s roads than alcohol.

According to statistics provided by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF), fatal driving collisions involving marijuana have increased more rapidly than alcohol related deaths between 2000 and 2014.

“What we see is an increasing percentage of fatally injured drivers in Canada who tested positive for marijuana in recent years, whereas the percentage who tested positive for alcohol is decreasing,” explains Dr. Heather Woods-Fry, a research associate with the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF). “While the percent is still higher for alcohol today, if current trends continue, marijuana might become more prevalent among fatally injured drivers.”

TIRF’s National Fatality Database shows in 2000, 35% of fatally injured drivers were under the influence of alcohol, while only 12% tested positive for marijuana. The organization says “By 2014, this percentage for alcohol had declined to 28%, whereas it increased to almost 19% for marijuana.”

For its results, which were posted Monday, TIRF looks to its National Fatality Database, which is financially backed by State Farm and the Public Health Agency of Canada. The study found impairdness varies greatly by age, with marijuana most commonly found in drivers aged 16-19 (29.8%) and between 20 and 34 years old (27.2%).

“Twenty one percent of drivers dying in weekend crashes tested positive for marijuana versus 17% in weekday crashes,” says Robyn Robertson, president and CEO of TIRF. “In comparison, 46% of fatally injured drivers in weekend crashes tested positive for alcohol versus 26% in weekday crashes.”