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Traffic deaths related to alcohol drop, marijuana-linked fatalities rise

Last Updated Dec 6, 2017 at 11:49 am PDT

(iStock photo)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It seems all the campaigns targeting drunk drivers have been working with the number of road fatalities involving booze dropping in recent years, but the same can’t be said for cannabis.

The latest data shows the percentage of marijuana-involved traffic deaths in Canada are on the rise, particularly among younger drivers.

According to the Traffic Injury Research Foundation National Fatality Database, in 2000, almost 35 per cent of fatally injured drivers tested positive for alcohol compared to 12 per cent who tested positive for marijuana.

By 2014, the numbers for alcohol had declined to 28 per cent whereas it increased to almost 19 per cent for marijuana.

“Results vary greatly by age,” states TIRF in a release. ” Marijuana was the drug most commonly detected among 16-19 and 20-34 year-old fatally injured drivers (29.8 per cent and 27.2 per cent respectively). Fatally injured drivers in older age categories were more likely to test positive for other drug types.”

One of the researchers, Dr. Heather Woods-Fry, suggests that while trends in cannabis use pale in comparison to research into drinking and driving, the numbers point to a lack of full understanding about the risks.

“While the percent is still higher for alcohol today, if current trends continue, marijuana might become more prevalent among fatally injured drivers.”

She says with legalization of recreational marijuana slated for July 2018, Ottawa needs to be proactive in reducing the number of traffic fatalities where drivers test positive for cannabis.

“We need to definitely keep this in mind and stay on top of the issue by increasing enforcement activities and have more trained officers who can detect cannabis, more education campaigns focusing on the impairing effects of cannabis and more tools and sanctions that have proven effectiveness to change behaviour of drug-impaired drivers,” Woods-Fry tells NEWS 1130.

Ottawa launched a campaign targeting drug-impaired drivers yesterday.