Edible cannabis products. (© Can Stock Photo / kirillvasilevcom)Edible cannabis products. (© Can Stock Photo / kirillvasilevcom)

Survey says more drive high, but study suggests there's little impact on road safety

A new survey by CAA South Central Ontario suggests more and more drivers are getting high before they get behind the wheel, while a new study suggests the actual safety risk is negligible.

In 2019, 16 per cent of drivers who responded to a CAA survey admitted they ate a cannabis edible before they drove, but in 2022, that climbed to 26 per cent.

The advocacy group suggested 156,000 drivers in Ontario drove stoned within the last three months. More than half said they had the edible within three hours of driving, and almost as many said they also had an alcoholic drink.

Eighty-nine per cent of respondents believed driving impaired by cannabis was a serious risk to road safety.

The second study, by the Canadian Institute of Actuaries and the Casualty Actuarial Society, examined the impact of marijuana decriminalization on vehicle accidents.

While it showed consuming cannabis does impact one's driving, the behaviour behind the wheel is not necessarily riskier. While the study does not conclude whether driving under the influence should be illegal, it did suggest those drivers tend to drive slower and leave a greater following distance behind the vehicle ahead of them.

"The observational studies of road accidents report mixed results, most often not detecting significant effects, particularly in the long term," wrote the study's author, Doctor Vyacheslav Lyubchich, an associate professor at the University of Maryland Centre for Environmental Sciences.

The study appears to go against conventional wisdom.

Lyubchich's research included Canadian and U.S. data between 2016 and 2019, including reports of collisions, fatal accidents, and weather factors. Information from ten Canadian regions accounted for regional differences, and American data varied from state to state.

The study concluded there is not enough evidence of a decriminalizing effect on road safety.

Meanwhile, the CAA said only half of its respondents knew the penalties for driving impaired by a drug.

Drivers who fail a roadside test face similar consequences as those who fail a blood alcohol test, the immediate suspension of their driver's license for 90 days and the impoundment of their vehicle for a week. They could also be fined $550.

Should they be convicted of an impaired driving charge, they could lose their license for a year.

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