Drugs and driving a dangerous mix: Manitoba Public Insurance launching public awareness/educational campaign

Manitoba Public Insurance is launching a broad public awareness and education campaign to raise awareness about the dangers and consequences of drug-impaired driving, in readiness for the expected federal legalization of recreational use of marijuana in 2018, Premier Pallister and Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen announced today.

“Our primary concern regarding the legalization of marijuana is the health and safety of Manitobans. Our government has been clear from the onset that federal plans to legalize marijuana must take into consideration the potential harms that can result, including a potential increase in drug-impaired driving collisions, fatalities and serious injuries,” said Pallister.

“Our hope is that MPI’s public awareness and education efforts over the next year will give all Manitobans the information they need to make safe decisions when it comes to driving after consuming cannabis, and to understand how, similar to alcohol, cannabis and other drugs can impair driving ability.”

Today’s announcement follows Manitoba Public Insurance announcing in March that one in 10 Manitoba drivers who participated in voluntary roadside surveys conducted last fall tested positive for drugs. Of the 1,230 drivers who participated in the survey, 124 tested positive for drugs with 53 per cent testing positive for cannabis, 31 per cent for cocaine and 12 per cent for opioids. Twenty two per cent of these drivers tested positive for more than one drug.

“Education and public awareness are critical in making all Manitobans aware of the dangers of drugs and driving,” said Cullen. “Recent results of the Manitoba Drug and Alcohol Roadside Survey confirm the need for more awareness about this serious road safety issue, and the importance of understandable messaging related to the dangers of drug use while driving.”

“While our government continues to express concern with the federal government’s accelerated timeframe of legalization, we will continue to do our part, in partnership with MPI, to get in front of this issue with a proactive and informative public awareness strategy,” added Cullen.

The multi-dimensional campaign launching by Manitoba Public Insurance this month will focus on four primary target audiences:

  • New teen drivers
  • Youth in general
  • Physicians and their patients
  • General public

“Messaging is far ranging and substantive, beginning with new teen drivers who participate in the Corporation’s High School Driver Education program, and expanding the messaging to other groups,” said Ward Keith, vice-president, Business Development & Communications, Chief Administrative Officer, Manitoba Public Insurance.

“Impairment by drugs is not only a risk related to cannabis use,” added Keith. “Use of illicit drugs and even legally prescribed medication can impair judgment and motor skills, which is why this campaign includes outreach to the medical community and their patients.

“The roadside survey conducted last fall confirms that many drivers in Manitoba simply do not understand or appreciate the extent to which consuming drugs can impair their ability to drive, and pending federal legislation to legalize cannabis makes the issue of drug-impaired driving an area of growing concern.”

Consistent with its mission of working with Manitobans to reduce risk on the road, the public insurer’s objective in launching this campaign is to reduce the incidence of drug-impaired driving collisions, claims and claims costs, which in turn, will benefit all rate payers in terms of the premiums they pay. The corporation also hopes that by raising awareness about the dangers and consequences of drug-impaired driving, fewer Manitobans will be killed or seriously injured on our roadways as a result of collisions that are, in most cases, completely preventable.

MADD Canada proactive

Canada’s leading advocate against impaired driving, Mothers Against Drinking and Driving, strongly supports these efforts and has introduced its own proactive public awareness campaign against drug-impaired driving.

“Educating and informing Canadians about the dangers and consequences of impaired driving is critical in keeping our roads safe so I applaud the Government of Manitoba and Manitoba Public Insurance for these proactive efforts,” said Andrew Murie, Chief Executive Officer, MADD Canada.

“Information alone will not end impaired driving, but the majority of people – when fully informed of the risks, both to themselves and others – will make the right choices and never get behind the wheel impaired. Heightened awareness about the dangers of drug-impaired driving is a critically important step in these efforts.”

Crash rate increases with drug use

A recent medical study published by the British Medical Journal shows that crash rates for drivers under the influence of cannabis are two to six times higher than for drivers who are not impaired. The different rates are due to how much and how often drivers have smoked cannabis.

Data also shows that in 2013 (the last year available), 95 per cent of fatally injured drivers in Manitoba were tested for the presence of drugs in their system. Of those drivers, nearly 40 per cent tested positive for the presence of drugs.

Highlights of the 2016 Manitoba Drug and Alcohol Roadside Survey

  • Drug use was noted in 124 drivers across all survey communities and among both males and females.
  • Drug use was most prevalent in the 35-44 age group (14 per cent of drivers tested in that age group), although young drivers also tested positive for drug use (4 per cent of drivers aged 16-18 and 12 per cent of drivers aged 19-24).
  • Results indicate that the most prevalent drug for both sexes was cannabis, representing 53 per cent of positive drug tests overall (63 per cent for men and 49 per cent for women).
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