Impaired driving not just an alcohol issue: Manitoba Public Insurance

The definition of impaired driving is not exclusive to alcohol consumption. Manitoba Public Insurance is raising awareness among Manitobans that impaired driving also extends to the over consumption of prescription, over-the-counter and illegal drugs.

“The message is clear: mixing drugs and driving can have the same deadly and destructive consequences as alcohol,” said Justice Minister Gord Mackintosh, minister responsible for Manitoba Public Insurance. “Raising awareness on this issue starts by educating people on the dangers of engaging in the activity and encouraging motorists to make a commitment to road safety.”

Education and awareness are two proven strategies in changing driver behaviours. The first step in raising awareness began today at Winnipeg’s Oak Park High School where drama students delivered a powerful performance about “drug-driving”. The audience of more than 100 students also heard from police and Manitoba Public Insurance about the dangers associated with drug-driving.

A third component to changing driver behavior is law enforcement. Earlier this month the Safer Roads Act officially became law. Manitobans who drive while impaired by drugs now face harsher roadside penalties. Of note, increasing immediate roadside driver’s licence suspension for first-time low-blood alcohol concentration (0.05 to 0.08) and drug-impaired drivers to three days from the current 24 hours, and to seven days if there is a person under 16 years of age in the vehicle.

“The message we want to get out to drivers of all ages is that any substance that impairs their ability to operate a motor vehicle is something that should be avoided prior to getting behind the wheel,” said Ward Keith, vice-president Business Development & Communications and Chief Product Officer, Manitoba Public Insurance.

A Canadian roadside survey in 2012 carried out in British Columbia found that 7.4 per cent of drivers tested positive for the presence drugs compared to 6.5 per cent who tested positive for alcohol. While the relationship between a drug’s presence in the body and its potential effects on driving performance and crash risk is complex and not fully understood for many drugs, the reality is that precautions should always be taken.

“With respect to marijuana in particular, we do know that research shows the drug significantly impairs driving ability and increases crash risk.”

Evidence complied from the Canadian Center on Substance Abuse shows that marijuana hurts a driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle by delaying reaction time and impairing short term memory and concentration.

“Studies indicate that many people believe drugs are somehow better or safer to mix with driving than alcohol is – but this could not be further from the truth,” said Keith.

Open a Claim