DriveWise B.C. operations manager Kate Wells and UVic professor Scott MacDonald talk about the dangerous effects of impairment while using the driving simulator. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

WATCH: Booze, weed both have fatal consequences

Video shows how easily impairment affects driving

While many say alcohol impairment is worse than cannabis impairment, researcher Scott MacDonald says both increase the likelihood of fatal crashes when driving, with alcohol still being the most dangerous drug on the road.

New laws came into effect Tuesday allowing police officers to collect a breath sample from any driver that has been lawfully stopped, without requiring the suspicion that the person has been drinking.

Read More: Drunk driving laws take effect across Canada today

However, there needs to be more research around cannabis and driving, said MacDonald, a scientist with UVic’s Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research who has focused his career on research issues in the field of substance use including impaired driving laws, the role of substance use in injuries, program evaluation, and cannabis and alcohol policy.

Until studies show differently, alcohol is the most dangerous drug on the road, he said.

“There’s been less studies on the effects of cannabis than alcohol because cannabis was illegal,” MacDonald said. “Cannabis impairment is associated with increased likelihood of fatal crashes with a large scale study in Australia.”

The top three driving factors that led to B.C. fatalities in 2017 were speed (70), impairment (70), and distracted driving (73).

Read Also: Drivers can expect compulsory breath tests at road checks come this holiday season

With cannabis legalization comes a new era, some of which MacDonald captures in his new book, Cannabis Crashes: Myths & Truths, a research-based text for students, policy makers, lawyers and experts in the field of substance use and crashes.

“One of the problems is the rate at which THC [tetrahydrocannabinol] passes through the system,” MacDonald said.

In some users it can pass through in a day, while in others, it can hang around for a week, he added. This could – and likely will – create challenges in tracking cannabis impairment if a driver is guilty of causing a motor vehicle incident and tests positive for levels of THC, but is actually sober.

In anticipation of new drunk driving laws and a potential increase in cannabis impairment on the road, MacDonald visited DriveWise B.C.’s Saanich office to experience the driving simulator, without having to ingest either.

The simulator can create a multitude of scenarios and conditions but is also not meant to replace what actually happens on the road, said Kate Wells, operations manager for DriveWise B.C.

Rather, it is to create scenarios so that drivers new and old can learn how to prepare themselves in case they do encounter those situations, she said.

Wearing adapted ski goggles that intentionally blur your vision and depth perception, Wells began driving the machine while MacDonald talked about what impairment symptoms lead to crashes. Mostly weaving, slower reaction times and fatigue, including falling asleep at the wheel, all from high blood alcohol concentrations.

– With files from Keri Coles

reporter@saanichnews.com


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Pair killed in Bamfield bus crash were 18-year-old UVic students

The victims were a young woman from Manitoba and and a young man from the U.S.

Historic Oak Bay carriage house to be restored as rental property

New owner found for Annandale carriage house

CUPE 441 applies for mediation in SD63 school dispute

Members paid less than counterparts in other districts, says CUPE 441 president

Victoria Foundation thrilled to see sun shine on B.C.’s philanthropists, builders

Province declares September ‘Community Foundations Month’

Artistic mystery baffles Sidney

The salmon mosaic appears on a local planter near the bandshell in Beacon Park

VIDEO: Liberals make child care pledge, Greens unveil platform on Day 6 of campaign

Green party leader Elizabeth May unveils her party’s platform in Toronto

Safety concerns resurface after fatal bus crash on Vancouver Island

Huu-ay-aht First Nations wants a safe route between Bamfield and Port Alberni

National weather forecasters predict average fall, cold winter

The Weather Network says precipitation will about average in most parts of Canada

Two dead, two in critical condition in highway crash near Campbell River

Highway 19 reopened Sunday night after it was closed in both directions

VIDEO: Vancouver Island mayor details emergency response after fatal bus crash

Sharie Minions says she is ‘appalled’ by condition of road where bus crashed

Scheer makes quick campaign stop in Comox

Conservative leader highlights tax promises early in campaign

Conservatives promise tax cut that they say will address Liberal increases

Scheer says the cut would apply to the lowest income bracket

B.C. VIEWS: Cutting wood waste produces some bleeding

Value-added industry slowly grows as big sawmills close

Fewer trees, higher costs blamed for devastating downturn in B.C. forestry

Some say the high cost of logs is the major cause of the industry’s decline in B.C.

Most Read