One in five Albertans would consider drinking and driving, according to a new survey on the topic of driving under the influence, which also found that almost one in ten Albertans had themselves driven while drunk, most of them during the past five years.
The poll conducted by Mainstreet Research and Postmedia surveyed a random sample of 2,497 people in the province to come up with the results, which are likely higher in reality than the numbers suggest, according to the pollsters. “Types of behaviour like this tend to underreport,” says Quito Maggi, president of Mainstreet, in conversation with 630 CHED.
When asked if they would consider driving impaired if it was along a quiet road over a short distance, about 14 per cent of Edmontonians said yes, while 18 per cent of Calgarians agreeing and 19 per cent outside of the two major cities.
“Obviously with public awareness campaigns, that have been out for 30-plus years, about the horrors that can happen when people drive under the influence, apparently still hasn’t quite sunk in to people,” says Maggi.
The Edmonton Journal reports that between 2009 and 2013, 444 people were killed in Alberta and 6,649 injured in alcohol-related driving incidents. The province estimated that one in five drivers killed during that period had been under the influence while driving.
Law enforcement is seeing an increase in the use of marijuana while driving, a disturbing trend which threatens to become even greater if and when the federal government makes good on its promise to legalize pot early into 2017.
“Few Albertans say they have driven under the influence of marijuana – but those who have are primarily in Edmonton (eight per cent),” says Maggi. “With legalized marijuana becoming the new normal sooner rather than later there are serious concerns about being able to properly detect impairment and educating the public about the risks of consuming marijuana before driving.”
The Alberta government wants the public to be aware of the dangers of driving while high and insists that your chances of getting caught are just as likely as for drunk driving. Earlier this year, Metro News reported that almost half of all 24-hour licence suspensions in Alberta last year were as a result of drug impairment. “It comes as a surprise to many people that drunk driving and drugged driving carry the same criminal charges,” says Brian Mason, Minister of Transportation. “This is because both substances impair a driver’s ability and increase the likelihood of being involved in a collision.”
A report by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse states that although studies have confirmed that cannabis use impairs cognitive and motor abilities and doubles the risk of being involved in a motor vehicle crash, the public is still less concerned about driving stoned than driving drunk, with driving while high being already more prevalent among young drivers than driving after drinking. According to the report, “After over three decades of successful efforts to change behaviour and to increase social intolerance of driving while impaired by alcohol, drug-impaired driving has emerged as an increasingly important public health and road safety issue.”