This year Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has expanded its mandate to educate about the dangers of drinking combined with doing drugs before getting behind the wheel.
“Our goal is to educate about the dangers of being impaired by alcohol and then driving but we also want to create awareness of how marijuana affects driving and how a combination of drinking and marijuana can also affect driving,” said Tracy Crawford, MADD Chapter Services manager for Western Canada.
Crawford believes the campaign against drinking and driving has had some success, but wonders why every day, somewhere in Canada, there is an accident involving alcohol.
“I believe the message is getting out but still, every day someone is killed by a drunk driver,” she said.
Because of new legislation to legalize the use of pot, MADD wants to make people aware of how drivers will be tested to show their impairment level.
“We are just learning the technology ourselves because it is new, but the roadside testing will be an oral fluid test,” Crawford said, adding that the level of marijuana will be measured in nanograms.
“The legal level allowed will vary for each province. It could be two nanograms in some jurisdictions. It could be zero tolerance in some provinces,” she said.
The drug level may vary according to amounts used but time will help dissipate the drug in the body just as it will for alcohol.
“I believe it’s a joint (will disappear) for every four hours,” she said.
MADD is advocating to make roadside screening for marijuana impairment mandatory in every province.
“We definitely want to see mandatory screening as part of Bill C46,” Crawford said.
MADD has studied the results of graduated licensing for young drivers under the age of 22 in Alberta, and they want those rules expanded to include drugs.
“We’d like graduated licensing to include drug use within that program. There should be zero tolerance,” she said.
The strict enforcement of penalties, especially within that young-driver age group is a deterrent, Crawford said, as she stressed that deterrents are a better alternative to waiting until someone is killed by an alcohol or drug-impaired driver.
“No one chooses to crash and kill or injure someone. But when they get the message they will lose their license and possibly get a car impounded, that’s really preventative,” she said.
Drivers of all ages must decide who will be accountable. Who will be the designated driver? Who will take them home if they drink too much? What can they do if there is no sober driver available?
Crawford suggested the following alternatives:
• Pre-arrange before going out to a party and decide who will drive.
• Pre-arrange with a friend or family member to pick you up.
• Pre-arrange with a taxi or limo company for transportation home.
• Stay in a hotel
“Enjoy yourself but plan ahead. Don’t wait until afterwards when your judgment may be impaired,” Crawford said.