“Weed doesn’t impair my ability to drive — it actually makes me a better driver!”
—Said by hundreds of thousands of Ontarians
At least, that’s how it seems. You’ve undoubtedly heard this excuse before from someone who thinks it’s no problem to get behind the wheel after ingesting cannabis. In fact, studies show that 50% of cannabis users don’t think it affects their driving much, and 20% don’t think it affects their driving ability at all.
This, of course, couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Ontario government’s Law & Safety website explains that “Impairment from cannabis begins almost immediately and can last up to 6 hours or more, depending on factors such as THC levels and how it is consumed….
Since the effects of cannabis vary, there is no way to know exactly how long to wait before it’s safe to drive. Even if you think the high has worn off, your ability to drive may still be impaired.”
Despite all this, the estimated number of drivers in Ontario who’ve driven high at some point is a mind-boggling 1.2 MILLION, according to a survey by CAA South Central Ontario.
More staggering statistics:
- 20% of Ontario drivers surveyed are cannabis users
- 72% reported waiting three hours or less after getting high to get behind the wheel (remember, effects can last up to six hours)
- 27% of those said they felt “very or somewhat” high while driving
With Bill C-45 going into effect in October 2018 signalling the official legalization of marijuana in Canada, it’s important to note that cannabis is second only to alcohol as the drug most frequently found among drivers involved in crashes and drivers charged with impaired driving.
Cannabis’ impairing effects on a driver can be far-reaching, including:
- Balance & Coordination
- Reaction time
- Ability to judge distances
Needless to say, impairment of any of these factors is a dangerous combination with driving.
THC is the psychoactive component of cannabis. Bill C-46, also introduced in October 2018, provides for moderate penalties for those caught driving with anywhere between 2 and 5 nanograms (ng) of THC per ml of blood, and more severe penalties for greater than 5 ng, or the presence of other more serious drugs.
The penalties begin at $1,000 fines and range up to 10 years in prison.
Could the recent legalization of cannabis in Canada be leading to a more carefree approach to getting behind the wheel after partaking in weed?
Lessons From South of the Border
If we are to take lessons from a number of American states that instituted legalized marijuana in the years prior to Canada’s legalization, the results are fairly evident:
A Washington State study found that in the years after recreational cannabis was legalized, the percentage of drivers involved in fatal crashes who tested positive for THC approximately doubled.
Likewise, in Colorado, the percentage of cannabis-positive drivers involved in fatal crashes increased after the introduction of legalized medical marijuana.
Recent research also makes it clear: Driving after cannabis use increases the risk of a collision by anywhere from 1.3 to 3.0 times.
Impaired driving is a serious matter, be it alcohol or drug-induced.
If you or a loved one has suffered a tragic accident at the hands of an impaired driver, whether as a pedestrian or as a passenger in a vehicle, contact Horowitz Injury Law for a free consultation. With nearly 35 years handling cases like these, Brian A. Horowitz has the expertise and experience to get you the compensation you are entitled to. Call 416-925-4100.