The survey conducted by CAA South Central Ontario indicated that there has been a 10 per cent increase in the number of cannabis-impaired drivers who have admitted to consuming an edible before driving (up to 26 per cent from 16 per cent in 2019).
A CAA news release said with around 10 million drivers in the province, that amounts to about 156,000 people.
The survey also found that in the last three months, around 600,000 Ontario drivers have admitted to driving after consuming any cannabis product — a figure that has remained the same since the previous survey conducted in 2019, the release said.
“It’s shocking that we’re seeing this many people who are getting behind the wheel while high,” Michael Stewart, a community relations consultant with CAA, said.
“Our data shows an alarming trend in the use of edibles and driving. With the growing popularity of cookies, gummies, and chocolates, since legalization, the use of edibles continues to rise and so do people who drive high on edibles.”
Stewart said the use of edibles before getting behind the wheel is particularly concerning because it’s harder to detect and can take up to two hours to kick in.
People could begin driving sober, “only to become high mid-trip,” the release said.
Most Ontario drivers — 89 per cent — said they believe cannabis-impaired driving is a safety risk, but only half know what the penalties are, the survey also found.
“Because of the novelty of edibles, there seems to be a knowledge gap surrounding the impaired-driving laws related to substances other than alcohol,” Stewart said.
“However, studies show that the drug affects nearly every skill related to driving. It impairs a driver’s motor skills, making it harder to judge distances, and can slow reaction times.”
CAA noted that those who fail a drug recognition expert’s evaluation have their vehicle impounded for seven days, face a 90-day licence suspension and a $550 fine. If convicted, the licence suspension would be extended to at least a year, the individual would have to use an ignition interlock device, as well as face other mandatory provisions, such as education or treatment, CAA said.
Additionally, the CAA survey found that around half of the individuals who admitted to driving while high on cannabis also indicated that they had consumed alcohol or other drugs.
And more than half of those who consumed cannabis then drove said they did so within three hours of consumption, CAA said, while a third who drove the same day said they felt high.
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