Attitudes around cannabis-impaired driving are still lax among Canadians, according to a recent survey from CAA - a federation of eight car clubs that provides over six million members with emergency roadside service, insurance, consumer protection and other automotive services.
Only 66 percent of young Canadians (18-34) in the poll said they would avoid driving after consuming cannabis, which Canada legalized last October. That means one-third of those respondents don't think cannabis-impaired driving is a serious issue - even though 89 percent of them said they wouldn't get behind the wheel after drinking.
That discrepancy isn't surprising, according to CAA's Chief Strategy Officer Jeff Walker, who says Canada desperately needs to educate young drivers about the perils of cannabis-impaired driving.
"We know young Canadians are those most likely to think they can drive as well or better when they're high as when they're sober," Walker said via press release. "Scientific studies show that's not true, but findings like these demonstrate there is a need for more education. If you plan to consume cannabis, don't drive. Make an alternate arrangement just like you would for drinking."
But young Canadians aren't the only ones who think high-driving is fine. Of the survey's 2,006 respondents, only 77 percent said they would use a ride-sharing service, taxi or designated driver after consuming cannabis. That's nearly one quarter of Canadian drivers. Meanwhile, 92 percent of them said they would find an alternative way home after consuming alcohol.
So CAA wants public-education efforts to step up before these perceptions of cannabis lead to roadside casualties.
"Public education remains the key to keeping everyone safe on the roads post-legalization," Walker said. "Cannabis may impair your driving differently than alcohol, but the effect is the same – decreased reaction times that can lead to collisions and even fatalities."
And those negative side effects are particularly dangerous in winter, when driving conditions are perilous enough without the addition of intoxicating substances to the equation.