Impaired driving is dangerous; it doesn’t matter if it’s caused by fatigue, alcohol or drugs, because you are taking an unnecessary risk one way or another. Although it’s true that drugs, such as marijuana, affect each person differently, it’s also true that from 1999 to 2010 drug-related fatalitieshave almost doubled. The question is why. Here are some theories:
There Are No Proper Regulations
Law enforcers have done certainly much to deter drivers from driving drunk, but they still have trouble discovering and implementing the most effective measure for stopping drug-impaired drivers from grabbing their keys and getting behind the wheel. Canada has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to make sure that law officials attend unique drug-recognition training courses. However, the program is not believed to have reached its full potential when it comes to catching and actually convicting impaired drivers.
Many Think It’s Okay to Drive High
While drinking and driving is taboo, driving under the influence of drugs still somehow goes under the radar, and that’s problematic. The attitude of drivers needs to change, especially among younger ones, who have always shown a more carefree mentality when operating a vehicle. In a study conducted by Drug Free Canada, one in three teenagers considers smoking marijuana and driving to be less dangerous than drinking and driving, which is not very comforting. Driving requires a lot of attention, and a sudden lapse of judgement for whatever reason can be deadly on the road.
In order to change this reckless attitude, lawmakers in North America, Australia and certain countries in Europe have implemented a legal limit of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – in some parts of the U.S., it’s five nanograms per millilitre of blood – as well as protocols for officers to perform when they suspect the driver to be under the influence of drugs. One method practiced in Norway and Australia involves requesting oral fluid samples from drivers, which can be obtained with a quick roadside test that involves licking or swabbing of the tongue.
By giving officers more resources to catch drug-impaired drivers, the mentality of people may eventually change.
Drug Users Are Not Punished Enough
There are many reasons why our society frowns upon drinking and driving, and one of those reasons is the fact that the police categorizes the as a high-priority issue. Why else would they have roadblocks, breathalysers and other sobriety tests? Because drinking and driving is very obviously illegal.
Some political parties believe that the whole penalty system should change so that drug-impaired drivers could receive punishment equal to those who drink and drive. The Transportation Minister of Ontario, Steven Del Duca, believes that implementing roadside suspensions, mandatory education or treatment, an ignition interlock condition and a seven-day vehicle impoundment are some of the first important steps to take in order to convince the public of the severity of drug use.
“And when you look at the statistics, in 2011 for example, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 46 per cent of all collisions involving vehicles that resulted in deaths had individuals who were either under the influence of drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol,” says Del Duca.
In Canada 2012, however, only 1,126 drug-impaired driving charges were laid, which makes up 2 per cent of all annual impaired driving charges (alcohol-impairment charges exceed 60,000). The inability to confidently confirm impairment on the scene has led to many challenges for those wanting to see an end to drug-impaired driving. This is mainly because the technology used for catching drunk drivers does not work on drug users.
So What Can Help Us?
Law enforcers could definitely benefit from a few technological innovations. Breathalysers have changed the way officers charge drunk drivers, and as such, we need a device that can do the same for drivers who are high. The Cannabix Breathalyser might be the solution. In less than a few minutes, this hand-held device, conceived by BC-based company West Point Resources, can accurately detect whether a person has consumed marijuana or not. Given its success rate, this new technology could also act as another deterrent for anyone who is thinking of using drugs before driving.
Generally speaking, the point is not to argue whether smoking weed is better or worse than drinking a couple of beers – the point is to reduce fatalities. And in order to do that, drivers need to change their mindsets, while politicians and lawmakers have to reconsider their approach and provide law enforcers with better technology. It won’t be easy, but it’s definitely doable!