ARTICLES, DRUG ABUSE & EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL. REHABILITATION
Impaired Driving: Drug and Alcohol Use
We know that the problem of impaired driving is part of a growing problem of substance abuse amongst youth and that alcohol consumption begins at a very early age.
Studies show us that young people who drink alcohol before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who wait until 18 (or 21 in the US).
In 2003, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s Ontario Student Drug Use Survey found that the use of alcohol and cannabis starts as early as age 11.
Driving while impaired by drugs is also a serious concern. Canadians between 14-25 years old have one of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world. Most young people see cannabis as a benign drug, far less dangerous than alcohol. They think driving under the influence of cannabis is risk-free, despite the evidence that shows cannabis can shorten attention span, alter the perception of time and distance and slow reaction times – all of which impair the driver’s ability to respond to sudden events in traffic.
Youth education is a critical part of MADD Canada’s strategy for preventing impaired driving. We understand that the long-term solution to the problem of impaired driving is to get our message out while youth are forming beliefs and patterns of behaviour.
- The statistics for motor vehicle crashes and impairment-related crashes among young drivers are alarming. Young people have the highest rates of traffic death and injury per capita among all age groups and the highest death rate per km driven among all drivers under 75 years of age. More 19-year-olds die or are seriously injured than any other age group.
- Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 16 to 25-year-olds, and alcohol and/or drug impairment is a factor in 55% of those crashes.
16-25-year-olds constituted 13.6% of the population in 2010 but made up almost 33.4 % of the alcohol-related traffic deaths.
Population surveys show the number of Canadians driving after using drugs is on the rise. In fact, driving after smoking cannabis is now more prevalent among some younger drivers than driving after drinking. Survey data from a 2013 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health report showed that among young Ontario drivers in grades 10 – 12, 4% percent drove after drinking while 9.7% drove after smoking cannabis.
Equally concerning is the misperception that many young people, and some parents, have that driving under the influence of cannabis is safer than driving under the influence of alcohol. A national study by the Partnership for a Drug-Free Canada revealed:
- Nearly one third (32%) of teens did not consider driving under the influence of cannabis to be as bad as alcohol.
- Nearly 25% of parents of teenagers did not consider driving while high on cannabis to be as bad as drinking and driving.
Many young people think driving under the influence of cannabis is risk-free. Yet studies have shown that smoking cannabis can produce unwelcome effects behind the wheel, including a shorter attention span, an altered perception of time and distances, and slower reaction times that impair the driver’s ability to respond to sudden events in traffic. A 2012 study by researchers at Dalhousie University in Halifax found that smoking cannabis three hours before driving nearly doubled a driver’s risk of having a motor vehicle crash.
For more information, please visit our website at www.madd.ca