March 7, 2018

Just months before recreational marijuana becomes legal in Canada, Mothers Against Drunk Driving is taking a new approach with its annual student education campaign — one focused on the dangers of pot-impaired driving.

MADD’s national president Patricia Hynes-Coates helped launch the campaign at Bluefield High School on Wednesday. It includes a film that illustrates the consequences of driving while high.

“The young driver of course is impaired by marijuana, he thinks he’s fine, and nobody questions what he’s doing, the fact that he’s driving,” Hynes-Coates said.

“And unfortunately in the end, the consequences are deadly, which is exactly what happens in life.”

Hynes-Coates points to statistics from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, which show a quarter of 16-to-24-year-old drivers killed between 2000-2010 tested positive for cannabis.

She said over the past decade, MADD has been trying to send a message that drug-impaired driving is dangerous as well. But especially when it comes to marijuana, she said, too many people aren’t hearing that message.

“Unfortunately, we get a lot of feedback from students, and they tell us, ‘no, I drive better when I’m stoned. I drive slower.’ And we’re telling you, no you don’t,” Hynes-Coates said.

“We have research, we have statistics to prove that substance is impairing you. It is dangerous, and we’re begging and pleading with you to please not drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs.”

MADD plans to present its new film at more than 20 schools on the Island, through funding from the P.E.I. Liquor Control Commission.

Some Bluefield High School students who saw the film said the pot-impaired driving warning is necessary.

“When talking about impaired driving, it’s so often referred to as drunk driving, so you automatically assume liquor, too much alcohol,” said Grade 12 student Esther Puiras.

“So I thought it was a really excellent thing that they talked so much more about the effects of drugs, because obviously it can have the exact same dangerous effects. And people need to understand that more, and talk about that more, because it’s so easy to say, ‘well I wasn’t drinking.”

MADD’s new video follows a TV and social media campaign launched by the Trudeau government in December, with a similar message about drug impaired driving, targeted at youth.

Ottawa also plans to create new drug-impaired driving offences, through the adoption of Bill-46.

That bill, which is under review by the Senate, would, among other things, make driving with a blood-drug concentration over a certain limit a criminal offence, and authorize police to demand drivers submit to blood or saliva testing.