Marijuana is trending to be an even bigger killer on the roads than alcohol, according to stats on fatal driving accidents between 2000 and 2014.
“What we see is an increasing percentage of fatally injured drivers in Canada who tested positive for marijuana in recent years, whereas the percentage who tested positive for alcohol is decreasing,” explains Dr. Heather Woods-Fry, a research associate with the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF). “While the percent is still higher for alcohol today, if current trends continue, marijuana might become more prevalent among fatally injured drivers.”
According to TIRF’s National Fatality Database, in 2000, almost 35% of fatally injured drivers tested positive for alcohol compared to 12% who tested positive for marijuana,” TIRF noted in a release. “By 2014, this percentage for alcohol had declined to 28%, whereas it increased to almost 19% for marijuana.
The results were posted Monday by TIRF. Results are based on data from TIRF’s National Fatality Database, which is maintained with financial support from State Farm and the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Results vary greatly by age, the study found. Marijuana was the drug most commonly detected among fatally injured drivers aged 16-19 (29.8%) and between 20 and 34 years old (27.2%).
Fatally injured drivers in older age categories were more likely to test positive for other drug types, notably Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants (18.1% among drivers aged 35-64, and 26.3% among drivers 65 and older).
The time of day, and the day of the week, play a lesser role in predicting the presence of marijuana among fatally injured drivers compared to alcohol.
“Twenty one percent of drivers dying in weekend crashes tested positive for marijuana versus 17% in weekday crashes,” explains Robyn Robertson, president and CEO of TIRF. “In comparison, 46% of fatally injured drivers in weekend crashes tested positive for alcohol versus 26% in weekday crashes.”
Similar patterns are evident for time of day, with a more pronounced contrast in the presence of alcohol at night versus daytime and a less pronounced contrast in the presence of marijuana.
“Increased public education is essential to bringing awareness to the issue of cannabis and prescription drug impaired driving, with the impending legalization of recreational marijuana,” said John Bordignon, media relations spokesperson for State Farm Canada. “A resource like the DIDLC is a valuable tool that can help save lives.”
The DIDLC is the Drug Impaired Driving Learning Centre.