With the holiday season now upon us, Manitobans are reminded impaired driving is not exclusive to over-use of alcohol. Impairment by drugs also impacts concentration, reaction time and driving ability – an issue now magnified by the legalization of non-medical cannabis use in Canada.
“Over-consumption of cannabis can have the same deadly and destructive consequences as alcohol,” said Satvir Jatana, vice-president responsible for Communications, Manitoba Public Insurance. “Drug-impaired driving can also result from the use of illicit, prescription and even some over-the-counter medications.”
As at the end of November 2018, 69 Manitobans have been killed in motor vehicle collisions so far this year on public roadways in Manitoba. 29 of these fatalities involved impairment by alcohol or drugs as a contributing factor, according to Manitoba Public Insurance data.
To keep impaired drivers in check, police agencies across the province are once again out in full force with their annual holiday season check stops. In addition, police now have new authority under The Criminal Code of Canada to demand drivers submit to roadside breath screening on a random basis, and without first having to form the opinion of suspected impairment by alcohol.
“Raising awareness about the dangers and consequences of impaired driving is a key goal for Manitoba Public Insurance this holiday season,” said Jatana. “Impaired driving is not only illegal, it can also lead to tragic outcomes, which is why we encourage all Manitobans to take personal responsibility for how they drive and the decisions they make behind the wheel.”
Drivers test positive for drugs
A study commissioned in 2016 by Manitoba Public Insurance confirmed many Manitoba drivers are consuming drugs before getting behind the wheel.
The Manitoba Drug and Alcohol Roadside Survey reported one in 10 Manitoba drivers who participated in voluntary roadside surveys tested positive for drugs. The purpose of the study was to establish a baseline for current drug and alcohol usage on Manitoba roadways. Of the 1,230 drivers who participated, 124 tested positive for some form of drug.
In total, 53 per cent of drivers with drugs in their systems tested positive for cannabis, 31 per cent for cocaine, 12 per cent for opioids, and two per cent each for benzodiazepines and amphetamines/methamphetamines. Twenty two per cent of these drivers tested positive for more than one drug.