A bottle of alcohol in a drivers hand as they navigate down a blurry Atlantic Canadian road
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The Dangers of Impaired Driving

Navigating the Perils of Impaired Driving: A Comprehensive Analysis of the Grave Consequences of Alcohol and Cannabis Influence

Delving into the dangerous realm of impaired driving, this detailed article aims to unravel the alarming statistics surrounding this perilous behavior in Canada. From the risk of life-altering accidents to the devastating consequences of legal ramifications and familial disruptions, we explore the multifaceted dangers associated with driving under the influence of alcohol and cannabis.

The numbers from Statistics Canada paint a chilling picture of impaired driving, with a staggering 71,000 police-reported incidents in 2019 alone. These statistics underscore the urgent need for heightened awareness and effective preventive measures to address the widespread issue that affects individuals and communities across the nation.

If you are interested in viewing more statistics about impaired driving in Canada, there is a section outlining impaired driving numbers at the end of this article.

The Pervasive Influence of Alcohol

Beyond the statistics lie the real dangers of impaired driving fueled by alcohol. Individuals who choose to drive after consuming alcohol not only risk their own safety but also endanger the lives of others on the road. The potential for life-altering accidents, including fatal collisions, serves as a stark reminder of the devastating consequences that can unfold due to this reckless behavior.

Cannabis’s Emerging Role in Impaired Driving

The legalization of cannabis in Canada has introduced a new layer of concern regarding road safety. Studies indicate that cannabis impairs cognitive and motor skills, significantly elevating the risk of accidents. The potential consequences, ranging from legal troubles to causing harm to oneself and others, highlight the pressing need for responsible decision-making when it comes to driving under the influence of cannabis.

Studies indicate that cannabis impairs cognitive and motor skills, significantly elevating the risk of accidents.

Woman smoking a cannabis cigarette in her car.
Studies indicate that cannabis impairs cognitive and motor skills, significantly elevating the risk of accidents.

Legal Ramifications: A Serious Deterrent

Impaired driving laws across the Maritime Provinces – New Brunswick (NB), Nova Scotia (NS), and Prince Edward Island (PEI) – share common principles, emphasizing the seriousness of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. While specific details may vary, the overarching framework is geared towards promoting road safety, preventing accidents, and holding individuals accountable for their actions.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits:

In all three provinces, the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08%. This means that operating a vehicle with a BAC exceeding this limit is considered impaired driving, subject to legal consequences.

First-time Offenses:
  • First-time offenders typically face penalties such as fines, license suspension, and mandatory participation in responsible driver programs.
  • These programs aim to educate individuals about the dangers of impaired driving and encourage responsible behavior.
Subsequent Offenses:
  • Repeat offenders incur more severe consequences, including increased fines, longer license suspensions, and potential imprisonment.
  • The legal system takes a progressively stern approach for individuals with multiple impaired driving convictions.

Those who do not adhere to the laws involving impaired driving in the Maritimes face stiff penalties.

Maritime police officer with an impaired driver pulled over.
Those who do not adhere to the laws involving impaired driving in the Maritimes face stiff penalties.
Ignition Interlock Programs:

Across the Maritimes, there are provisions for ignition interlock programs. Courts may require the installation of an ignition interlock device for certain individuals convicted of impaired driving. This breathalyzer device prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver’s breath registers alcohol above a specified limit.

Vehicle Impoundment:

In some instances, the vehicle of an impaired driver may be subject to impoundment. This measure serves as an additional deterrent and emphasizes the gravity of the offense.

Drug Impairment:

Impaired driving laws also encompass driving under the influence of drugs, including cannabis. Similar legal consequences apply for individuals found to be operating a vehicle while impaired by substances other than alcohol.

The Devastating Impact on Families

Beyond legal consequences, impaired driving can wreak havoc on families. The emotional toll of losing a loved one or dealing with the aftermath of a life-altering accident is immeasurable. The ripple effect extends to relationships, mental health, and overall well-being, emphasizing the need for collective responsibility in preventing such tragedies.

Statistics

  • A driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.10% faces a staggering 51 times higher likelihood of being involved in a fatal crash compared to a non-drinking driver (MADD Canada, 2020).
  • In a 2017 public opinion poll of Canadian drivers, 5.1% admitted to driving a vehicle despite believing they were over the legal BAC limit (0.08%) at the time (Traffic Injury Research Foundation, 2017).
  • In 2014, out of an estimated 2,297 traffic fatalities, approximately 55.4% (1,273 deaths) resulted from crashes involving individuals positive for alcohol or drugs. Of these deaths, 13% involved alcohol alone, 26.9% involved drugs alone, and 15.5% involved both alcohol and drugs. Notably, nearly half of drug-positive fatal crashes involved cannabis. These figures exclude fatal crashes on private property, Crown land, or roads administered by a First Nation (MADD Canada, 2020).
  • Alcohol-impaired driving is most prevalent on weekends (47% of incidents) and between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. On the other hand, drug-impaired driving incidents show a different pattern, with 28% occurring between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m., and an equal proportion between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. Less than one-third of drug-impaired driving incidents occur on weekends (Traffic Injury Research Foundation, 2017).
  • Between 2000 and 2014, the total number of traffic fatalities decreased by 34.7%, but alcohol-related fatalities declined even more, by 40.8%. This indicates a genuine decrease in fatalities caused by impaired driving (Traffic Injury Research Foundation, 2018).
  • A survey of Canadians aged 19-24 revealed that while 77% acknowledged that cannabis impairs driving ability, 24% believed it was safe to drive a couple of hours after consuming cannabis, and 15% thought it was safe as soon as they believed the effects had worn off. Both beliefs are incorrect (Health Canada, 2016).
  • According to a CAA poll, 26% of Canadians aged 18-34 admitted to driving while high on cannabis or riding in a vehicle with a high driver (CAA, 2019).
  • Despite 86% of younger Canadians understanding the need for alternative transportation after consuming alcohol, only 70% believed it necessary after consuming cannabis (CAA, 2020).
  • A concerning 12% of Canadians aged 18-34 falsely believed that their driving remains the same or even improves after consuming cannabis (CAA, 2020).
  • Another misconception was found, with 50% of Canadians aged 18-34 incorrectly thinking it is safe to drive less than five hours after consuming cannabis (CAA, 2020).
  • Impaired Driving Stops Per 100,000 Population for Atlantic Canada (2015)
Impaired Driving graph for Stops Per 100,000 Population for Atlantic Canada (2015)

Source: https://tests.ca/driving-statistics/

The dangers of impaired driving, whether induced by alcohol or cannabis, extend far beyond mere statistics. From life-altering accidents and the potential loss of lives to the severe legal ramifications and the devastating impact on families, the consequences are profound. By understanding the gravity of impaired driving, we can collectively work towards creating safer communities and preventing the far-reaching devastation that accompanies this reckless behavior. If you or a loved one has been affected by an impaired driving incident, seeking legal assistance is crucial to navigating the complexities and seeking justice for the victims.

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