Remember when marijuana was decriminalized, and some people thought the world was going to end? Well, the prophets of doom are in for a surprise: drug-impaired driving accidents are projected to fall.
Who would have guessed? Well, according to Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth’s opinion piece published in Business in Vancouver, stricter drug-impaired driving laws introduced in tandem with legalization are predicted to reduce the number of drug-impaired driving accidents in the Province.
You can decide for yourselves the merits of his argument, but the most salient points are as follows.
In 2018, the Ministry of Public Safety & Solicitor General had an independent survey carried out to look into drivers’ alcohol and drug use. Small crews, each containing one police officer selected vehicles at random. They would ask drivers for consent to take a confidential breathalyzer sample and a mouth swab to test for drugs.
The results showed, out of approximately 75% of drivers who agreed to be tested:
- One in 20 drivers tested positive for any alcohol – half as many as an earlier survey of this kind in 2010.
- Fewer than 1% of drivers had a blood-alcohol concentration above 0.05%.
- 5% tested positive for drugs. Out of those, 70.5% of them tested positive for cannabis.
- Drug use was most prevalent among the over-55s and 19 to 25-year-olds.
- Nearly 14% of survey participants tested positive for either alcohol, drugs or both.
- New drivers were almost seven times more likely to test positive for drugs than for alcohol.
- Surveyed drivers thought it “somewhat more likely” for police to stop a driver after drinking too much than after using drugs.
Proof that stricter laws work?
We won’t know the impact legalization will have on the prevalence of drug use among drivers until more contemporary roadside surveys are carried out. However, minister Farnworth predicts a reduction in drug-impaired driving accidents.
We should be careful before jumping to conclusions. Other factors, such as better education about the dangers of impaired driving, societal attitudes, and initiatives are clearly at play.
More than a year on from legalization and predictions of chaos on the roads failed to materialize. Now we’re actually looking at a fall in drug-impaired driving and we need to be careful what to do next. You could look at the projected decline in impaired driving as justification to continue down this path of stricter driving laws. However, you could just as easily point to it as a reason to relax them.