Article by Lift
In September of this year, a car was stopped in Saanich for exceeding the speed limit in a school zone. The officer noted a strong odour of cannabis coming from the vehicle and confronted the driver and passengers who admitted that they had smoked a joint to celebrate dropping their children off for the first day back at school (Having kids of my own, I can sympathize with the feeling, but come on, people).
Rather than immediate arrest, a drug recognition expert was summoned, but failed to show that the driver was unfit to drive and off the moms went. This case serves to illustrate three key points regarding cannabis and driving.
- Cannabis produces a relatively low level of impairment
- Per se limits are arbitrary and not supported by science.
- Roadside breath/saliva/blood testing is of very limited utility
1.Impairment from cannabis
Many have raised concerns about the impact of recreational marijuana on road safety. These fears are likely exaggerated; research from epidemiological and simulator studies has lead us to understand that cannabis use presents a relatively low risk to drivers. Drivers who have consumed cannabis have a 30–40% increased risk of being in an accident, about the same as someone who has a BAC of 0.03–0.04. For comparisons sake, federal law criminalizes driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08, which is associated with a 200% increase in accident risk. Simulator research shows that those who have consumed cannabis are aware of their impairment and tend to drive slower and leave more distance between them and the vehicle ahead.
In the real world, despite the proliferation of dispensaries in Vancouver and the rest of British Columbia, a review of BC Coroners data does not show a significant effect on the total number of fatalities in the province or the number of fatalities.