AMHERST – Most impaired driving fatalities don’t involve alcohol, but, instead, drugs.
“In 2014, road crashes claimed an estimated 2,297 lives. Based on testing of fatally-injured drivers, it may be estimated that 1,273 of these deaths resulted from crashes in which an individual was positive for alcohol and/or drugs,” said RCMP Const. Travise Dow during the 5th annual MADD Cumberland-Tantramar Road Rally at the Lions Club in Amherst.
Dow, reading from 2014 statistics provided by MADD Canada, broke those 1,273 deaths down into three categories.
“299 deaths occurred in crashes involving individuals who were positive for alcohol alone, 618 deaths occurred in crashes involving individuals who were positive for drugs alone, and 356 deaths occurred in crashes involving individuals who were positive for both alcohol and drugs,” said Dow.
Canada enters uncharted territory on Oct. 17, when the use of marijuana is legalized.
“It’s been legal in our country for a long time for medical purpose. What’s happening on Oct. 17 is not for medical purpose, it’s for recreational use,” said Dow. “For the first time in a long time we’re going to be able to go in and buy something that’s licensed, regulated and inspected, which has never been the case for cannabis.”
Undoubtedly, many of those people who buy marijuana at licensed retailers will smoke and drive.
“Stats Canada says one in seven cannabis users with a driver’s license drove at least once within two hours of smoking cannabis,” said Dow, adding that cannabis, the most commonly-found drug, is present in almost half of the drug-positive fatal crashes.
“The fact that the number of fatalities involving drugs alone is double those involving alcohol alone reflects the growing incidence of driving after drug use,” said Dow.
Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, MLA for Cumberland North, attended the rally. She expressed her concerns about mixing marijuana with driving.
“It’s such an important topic, especially moving forward as we are with the legalization of cannabis,” said McCrossin. “Many of us in the community have concerns about it increasing impaired driving incidents. We hope it doesn’t.”