Risk of impaired driving due to drugs on the rise among teens

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TORONTO – May 15, 2012 – A recent Canadian study published in the British Medical Journal finds that teens who drive within three hours of smoking marijuana are twice as likely to be in a car collision.[i] Allstate Insurance Company of Canada and MADD Canada are concerned about all forms of impaired driving and are asking parents to speak to their young drivers about this dangerous behaviour.

�Car collisions are the leading cause of death among Canadian teens,� says Karen Benner of Allstate Canada.[ii]�We�re concerned that many teens don�t know how dangerous driving under the influence of drugs can be. Misconceptions among young drivers may be contributing to the number of injuries and fatalities on the road.�

Canadian teens and driving while under the influence of drugs

While some drivers believe taking drugs like marijuana will not affect their performance behind the wheel, it has been proven that marijuana use makes it hard to judge distances and severely impedes reaction times. Research also shows that new smokers are more likely to feel stronger and more impairing effects of the drug. According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCAS), 47 per cent of all drivers 19 years of age or younger who died in traffic fatalities between 2000 and 2007 had tested positive for either alcohol and/or drugs.[iii]

�Teen fatalities in car collisions are not only caused by immaturity or lack of driving experience, but are often a result of risky patterns of behaviour like choosing to get into a car with someone who has been drinking or doing drugs,� says MADD Canada�s national president Denise Dubyk.

The CCAS has also published data showing driving while under the influence of drugs is becoming more common than drinking and driving in some areas of the country. Within at least the last twelve months, there were more Grade 12 students in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Ontario who admitted to driving while under the influence of drugs than students who said they got behind the wheel after drinking.[iv]

�After alcohol, marijuana is the most common drug used by teens,� says Dubyk. According to MADD Canada, young Canadians ages 15 to 24 make up 60 per cent of people who have or are currently using illegal drugs.[v]

  • Survey data from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health found that seven per cent of high school drivers reported drinking and driving and 12 per cent reported smoking marijuana and then driving.[vi]
  • Between 14 and 21 per cent of students in Grade 12 report driving within an hour of using cannabis and 33 per cent say they have been in the car with a driver who is high.[vii]

Safe driving can start at home

Allstate Canada is committed to making a positive difference across the country by advocating for community safety and responsible driving. �We want to encourage parents to talk with their kids about the dangers and consequences of driving under the influence of drugs, so we�ve created some materials to help parents get started,� says Benner.

At goodhandsadvice.ca, parents can learn more about insurance for their young driver; they can watch a video about the dangers of driving while under the influence of drugs and sign a safe driving contract. The contract outlines a teen�s driving responsibilities as well as the consequences for not following through.

It�s also important that young drivers understand the criminal consequences of driving impaired. If a teen (aged 18 or older) tests positive for alcohol or drugs at a roadside stop two things will automatically happen:

  • They will have their licence suspended for 90 days
  • They will likely be charged under section 253a or 253b of the Criminal Code of Canada.

If convicted:

  • They will be fined a minimum of $600
  • They will have their licence suspended for a minimum of one year
  • They will likely be ineligible to buy insurance from a standard insurer for at least three years
  • They may have difficulty finding employment.

At madd.ca, parents can also find more information about impaired driving and some interactive educational material to share with their kids. Interactive sites like Why Drive High, developed by Ottawa Public Health and Carlington Community and Health Services demonstrates how drugs interfere with hand eye coordination. Parents should also visit goodhandsadvice.ca to learn more about safe teen driving and to find information to help start a conversation with their teens about responsibility on the road.

About Allstate Insurance Company of Canada

Allstate Insurance Company of Canada is one of Canada�s leading producers and distributors of home and auto insurance products. “The Good Hands Network�” enables consumers to contact Allstate Canada through one of 92 community-based Agencies, directly online at www.allstate.ca and through the Customer Contact Centre at 1-800-Allstate. Allstate Canada is committed to making a positive difference in the communities in which it operates. In 2010, Allstate Canada, in partnership with the National Hockey League Players� Association (NHLPA), created the Allstate All-Canadians program, a mentorship program designed to create future community leaders through the sport of hockey. Learn more about this program at www.allcanadians.com. To learn more about Allstate Canada, visit www.allstate.ca.

About MADD Canada

MADD Canada (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) is a national, charitable organization that is committed to stopping impaired driving and supporting the victims of this violent crime. With volunteer-driven groups in more than 100 communities across Canada, MADD Canada aims to offer support services to victims, heighten awareness of the dangers of impaired driving and save lives and prevent injuries on our roads. For more information, visit www.madd.ca.