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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Black History Month: Documentary sheds light on black pioneers’ role in Victoria

Secret Victoria: Rush to Freedom looks at how a mass migration shaped the capital

Nearly 1,000 Saanich households located within tsunami-planning zone

Residents sent preparedness packs, although risk of tsunami is low

Camosun’s two volleyball teams bumped out of provincial championship title

Camosun Chargers lose gold medal match on Saturday, Feb. 22

VIDEO: Royals nab 4–3 win against Kelowna Rockets in shootout

Jerseys worn during match up for auction, proceeds towards BC Cancer Foundation

UPDATED: VicPD safely find high-risk missing 17-year-old girl

Teen was last seen in Chinatown on Feb. 21

Governor general says multiple solutions needed for ‘complicated’ overdose issue

Julie Payette met at a fire hall with firefighters and police officers as well as politicians and health experts

Violent ends to past Indigenous protests haunt Trudeau government

Trudeau adopted a more assertive tone Friday, insisting the barricade must come down

VIDEO: Wounded Warrior Run leaves Port Hardy on eight-day trek down Vancouver island

The team’s fundraising goal this year is $250,000, which is double last year’s goal.

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

B.C. money laundering inquiry to begin amid hopes for answers, accountability

Eby argued that most B.C. residents already know the previous government, at best, turned a blind eye

Blockades remain in place as Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs returning to B.C.

Hereditary Chief Woos said they are ready to engage in nation-to-nation talks with the B.C.

Tyler Toffoli scores twice, Canucks crush Bruins 9-3

Stecher, Miller each add three points for Vancouver

Zamboni driver, 42, earns NHL win over Maple Leafs

Emergency goalie called into action for Carolina Hurricanes

Most Read