With the legalization of weed two weeks away, CAA South Central Ontario has released a report showing 1 900 000 people have driven under the influence of cannabis in Ontario. Over 200 000 people have admitted to be ‘poly users’ meaning they mix two substances during the same time period.
“This study has shown us that this is the reality of cannabis driving. This is telling us that right before the point of legalization, people are smoking weed and driving in large numbers. Certainly this is a call to action for public education and other tools to help people understand the risks of driving high on the road,” says CAA manager of government relations, Elliot Silverstein.
Those surveyed that drive under the influence of cannabis were more likely to be male between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-four. The fact that high drivers are young and mostly novice drivers with little experience on the road, frightens Silverstein.
“Knowing that young drivers in the G1 and G2 class licensing are driving high is frightening. They have a zero tolerance. This is something we should all be concerned about.”
Sixty-percent of drivers voted to support investments in public education campaigns which is exactly what CAA is in the midst of trying to do.
“We’ve undertaken a number of steps over the past year really trying to educate members through different information online. We’ve established a website with the penalties and we’re moving forward with a public education campaign to really help people understand and navigate through these new times,” he said.
New times really for everyone from emergency services to the government.
“This is brand new and a brand new experience for all of us. So, whether it be law enforcement, government, drivers, road safety advocates. We’re all experiencing this for the first time together.”
This is all something that needs to be worked on by everyone and will take a while getting used to. Silverstein says something needs to be resolved quickly though as weed legalization fast approaches. There is no need for people to think they have the right to drive high behind the wheel.
“At the end of the day, you have to remember that driving is a privilege not a right. We wanna make sure people behind the wheel are focused on the road, eyes on the road, hands on the wheel, and making sure they get home safely. That is ultimately the key goal there.
He recommends from a federal and government standpoint, that there needs to be investments in public education. When it comes to the provincial government it comes down to public education and continuing to enforce the laws that are already out there.
“This is not establishing new rules. The laws that are around novice drivers specifically are already in place. If that is the demographic that is so front of mind, we should be helping them try and understand and change those habits,” says Silverstein.
The CAA and government will work together to come up with public education and re-enforcement methods of the current laws already in place to combat high driving for the future.
The cannabis legalization date in Ontario is October 17th.