The Dangers of Cannabis-Impaired Driving

Edited by Admin
The Dangers of Cannabis-Impaired Driving

 Cannabis-Impaired Driving

Two recent surveys from the Canadian Automobile Association contain some alarming statistics about drivers and cannabis use. The surveys found that:

  • One in five younger Canadians say they have driven high or have travelled in a vehicle with a high driver.
  • 12% of young Canadians (aged 18 to 34) believe their driving is better or the same after consuming cannabis.
  • Half (50%) of young Canadians said they think it is safe to drive less than five hours after consuming cannabis.
  • 89% of young Canadians said they wouldn’t drive themselves home after drinking alcohol, yet 66% of those same individuals would be willing to drive themselves home after consuming cannabis.
  • 20% of young Canadians (aged 18 to 34) believe their driving is unaffected by cannabis.


Statistics about cannabis use from Canadian government sources are also startling. They include:

  • 25% of young Canadians believe that the impacts of cannabis consumption are less detrimental to their driving ability than alcohol.
  • 44% of Canadians said it’s safe to drive less than five hours after they’ve consumed cannabis.
  • First-time cannabis use is up by 4% since legalization, with 18% of Canadians reporting recreational cannabis use.
  • 65% of Canadians agree that cannabis users often fail to realize that they are impaired from using cannabis.
  • 81% of Canadians know someone who has used cannabis and 56% have consumed cannabis at some point in their lives.
  • 44% of youth say it is easy to tell if someone is too high to drive.


It’s obvious that Canadians – particularly younger Canadians -- are operating under some dangerous misconceptions about cannabis use and impaired driving.


Use Responsibly

Driving under the influence of cannabis or any other drug is illegal in Ontario. The law applies not only to cars and trucks, but also to boats, snowmobiles, and off-road vehicles such as ATVs. Cannabis affects judgement, coordination, and reaction time, and significantly increases the risk of being involved in a collision. A British Columbia study reported that cannabis use alone increased the risk of being in a fatal car crash by a factor of five -- and that cannabis use combined with alcohol made drivers forty times more likely to be involved in a fatal collision. According to police reports, approximately 75 people per year are killed in Ontario motor vehicle accidents involving a driver under the influence of drugs. 


Despite the survey responses showing that drivers see cannabis as less dangerous than alcohol, impairment involving cannabis can be every bit as serious. Like alcohol, a number of different factors impact the rate of impairment, such as the substance’s THC levels and the manner in which it is consumed. Because the effects vary from person to person, there is no way to know when it might be safe for you to drive after you have consumed cannabis. Many people falsely believe that it’s safe to drive four to six hours after consumption of the drug, but the effects of cannabis can last longer than six hours depending on circumstances. This is especially true if you are a relatively new user, if you consumed a lot, if the cannabis had high levels of THC, and especially, if you have combined alcohol and cannabis use. Even if you feel like the “high” has worn off, your ability to drive may still be affected.


The Government of Canada’s “Don’t Drive High” campaign for young people highlights several reasons why you should never drive high: 


  1. You could hurt or kill someone you care about.
  2. You could get in a crash, hurt yourself or die.
  3. You could hurt or kill an innocent stranger.
  4. You could get arrested and face trial.
  5. You could get your license suspended.
  6. You could get a criminal record.

If you intend to use cannabis, please plan ahead and choose a designated driver who will remain sober. If you find yourself in a situation where you have used cannabis and don’t have a designated driver, leave your car where it is and use public transit or a taxi or ride share to get home. If none of these is available, call a friend or family member for a ride, or stay overnight.


If You Have Been Injured

If you or a family member has been injured in an accident and you suspect the other driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, contact a GTA personal injury law firm as soon as possible; depending on your circumstances, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means that they do not charge up-front fees but rather receive a percentage of any damages you recover. Look for a lawyer who you can communicate well with; if you prefer to communicate in a language other than English, look for a firm such as Sokoloff Lawyers, which offers multilingual services. Call today and learn more about your options.