High Behind the Wheel

Edited by Admin
High Behind the Wheel

Drivers High Behind the Wheel


With the legalization of cannabis in Canada after passage of the Cannabis Act (C-45) in October 2018, usage of the drug has increased, according to Statistics Canada. In a survey from May of 2019, 18% of Canadians aged 15 and older reported using recreational cannabis. Of those, 646,000 cannabis users reported trying cannabis for the very first time during the first three months of 2019.


Driving under the influence of drugs has always been a problem in Canada – the first legislation dealing with it was passed in 1925. Experts fear that a jump in cannabis use will mean a greater danger on our roads. Studies show that cannabis can have a great effect on driving ability. Those high on cannabis showed reduced concentration and attention span, slower reaction times, and altered perceptions. Drivers were found to have difficulty staying in lane positions, and gauging speed and distance. Cannabis use also impaired the ability to react to unexpected events, such as pedestrians darting out into the road. In Ontario in 2016, 74 people were killed in collisions involving a driver under the influence of drugs.


Impairment from cannabis begins almost immediately and can last up to six hours or more, depending on various factors such as the strength of the cannabis, and the user’s physical condition. Because the effects vary, there is no way to know how soon after consuming cannabis to wait before it’s safe to drive. The ability to drive may be impaired long after than the initial “high” of the drug has worn off. In the 2019 Statistics Canada survey, 15% of cannabis users with a valid driver's license reported driving within two hours of consuming cannabis.


Earlier research found that 25% of Canadians believe that the impact of cannabis consumption is less detrimental to driving than alcohol; in fact, cannabis has just as much of an impact on driving ability as alcohol does. Almost 20% of those who reported driving after consuming cannabis indicated that they had also consumed alcohol, a particularly deadly combination. A BC study showed that cannabis use alone increased the likelihood of a fatal motor vehicle accident by five times, while cannabis use combined with alcohol use increased the likelihood of a fatal crash by a factor of forty.


Law Enforcement Tools


Another false belief that Canadians have is that law enforcement is unable to measure cannabis use in drivers. While there are no tests for cannabis that are as quick and easy as breathalyzer tests for alcohol, police do have ways to find out if people are driving under the influence of drugs. Following the passage of Bill C-45, parliament also passed Bill C-46, which strengthened impaired driving laws. This legislation authorizes police to use oral-fluid drug-screening devices at roadside stops. If police suspect that a driver is high, they can ask for a saliva sample. Drivers who refuse to provide a sample can be charged with a criminal offense.


This law sets concentration levels for THC (the active substance in cannabis), much like alcohol-related laws set blood-alcohol levels. Saliva with more than 25 nanograms per millilitre of THC is an indication that the driver has recently smoked or vaped cannabis. While the oral-fluid test can tell police whether or not cannabis has been recently consumed, the penalty is determined by a blood test that reveals concentration levels. Police may ask for a blood test without having first performed an oral-fluid saliva test, or even if the driver passes the saliva test.


Ontario has a zero-tolerance policy toward drivers under the influence of drugs. Penalties for violating Ontario’s law include immediate licence suspensions, fines, and vehicle impoundment. If you are guilty of repeat offenses, you may face further consequences, such as mandatory treatment programs, jail time, and a criminal record.


Legal Action


If you have been seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident where the other driver was found to be impaired by drugs, alcohol, or both, you may have grounds for legal action. Once your medical condition has stabilized, consult with a personal injury lawyer. Most Ontario personal injury lawyers offer a free initial consultation, where they can assess your situation and provide you with information about your options. In addition, personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means that you will not pay out-of-pocket while your claim or legal case is in progress. (These lawyers traditionally take a percentage of any compensation you receive.)


You may be eligible for funds from your insurance company that will compensate you for pain and suffering, lost income, medical expenses, caregiver expenses, and more. A civil suit against the party responsible for the accident may also be possible. Contact a personal injury law firm today and learn more about getting the compensation you deserve.