One-fifth of 18- to 24-year-old Canadian drivers say they have gotten behind the wheel when high on cannabis or have travelled in a vehicle with a cannabis-impaired driver, according to recent research released by the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA).

Though Gen Z is a socially conscious generation that understands the dangers of driving drunk, more than half a million young Canadians don't appear to associate the same risky behaviour with smoking cannabis or consuming edibles. The research highlights a need for more education on the risks of driving under the influence of cannabis, CAA says.

In response, the car insurance provider launched its ‘Do Anything but Drive’ national campaign, which highlights the dangers of driving while impaired on cannabis with a focus on edibles. CAA says edibles compound the issue since the effects of the drug can take longer to manifest and it lasts longer.

Cannabis can affect a motorist’s judgment, decision making, and reaction time, which increases the risk of getting into a collision. The federal government notes the percentage of Canadian drivers killed in car crashes who test positive for drugs exceeds the numbers who test positive for alcohol. Furthermore, Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada finds more than half of road fatalities involve drivers impaired by alcohol or drugs, and 13.2% of cannabis users with a valid driver’s licence reported in 2019 to driving within two hours of consuming the drug.

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The penalties for driving impaired are severe

The Criminal Code prohibits driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol. Penalties for this offence range from a mandatory minimum fine to life imprisonment. Moreover, there are separate offences of having specified prohibited levels of alcohol, cannabis, or certain other drugs in your bloodstream within two hours of driving. The fines for a first-time offence of driving while high include:

  • A fine of up to $1,000 if you’re caught driving with 2 nanograms (ng) of THC per millilitre (ml) of blood but less than 5 ng.
  • A mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 if you have more than 5 ng of THC in your system.
  • A mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 if you have 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 ml of blood along with 2.5 ng of THC in your system.

In addition to a fine, if convicted of impaired driving, your driver’s licence may be suspended for one year.

Ways to avoid driving while impaired

If you consume alcohol or drugs, plan ahead to avoid getting behind the wheel after doing so:

  • Make sure you have a designated driver who is straight and sober
  • Call a friend or family member to pick you up
  • Take public transit
  • Call a cab or a ridesharing service
  • Stay over where you are for the night

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is incredibly dangerous, and frankly, unnecessary. The cost of auto insurance could increase substantially for a driver with an impaired driving conviction. You may also have difficulty getting car insurance, especially if you are classified as a high-risk driver by insurance companies, which severely limits your options to find an affordable rate.

Avoid putting yourself and others at risk. Never drive high or drunk.

Liam Lahey

Liam Lahey is a versatile, seasoned writer and editor. He worked as both a staff writer and freelance writer for many business and technology publications as well as for several newspapers. He writes about home, auto, and travel insurance, and is the media spokesperson for RATESDOTCA.

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