DriveWise B.C. operations manager Kate Wells and UVic professor Scott MacDonald talk about the dangerous effects of impairment while using the driving simulator.                                (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

DriveWise B.C. operations manager Kate Wells and UVic professor Scott MacDonald talk about the dangerous effects of impairment while using the driving simulator. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

WATCH: Booze, weed both have fatal consequences

Video shows how easily impairment affects driving

While many say alcohol impairment is worse than cannabis impairment, researcher Scott MacDonald says both increase the likelihood of fatal crashes when driving, with alcohol still being the most dangerous drug on the road.

New laws came into effect Tuesday allowing police officers to collect a breath sample from any driver that has been lawfully stopped, without requiring the suspicion that the person has been drinking.

Read More: Drunk driving laws take effect across Canada today

However, there needs to be more research around cannabis and driving, said MacDonald, a scientist with UVic’s Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research who has focused his career on research issues in the field of substance use including impaired driving laws, the role of substance use in injuries, program evaluation, and cannabis and alcohol policy.

Until studies show differently, alcohol is the most dangerous drug on the road, he said.

“There’s been less studies on the effects of cannabis than alcohol because cannabis was illegal,” MacDonald said. “Cannabis impairment is associated with increased likelihood of fatal crashes with a large scale study in Australia.”

The top three driving factors that led to B.C. fatalities in 2017 were speed (70), impairment (70), and distracted driving (73).

Read Also: Drivers can expect compulsory breath tests at road checks come this holiday season

With cannabis legalization comes a new era, some of which MacDonald captures in his new book, Cannabis Crashes: Myths & Truths, a research-based text for students, policy makers, lawyers and experts in the field of substance use and crashes.

“One of the problems is the rate at which THC [tetrahydrocannabinol] passes through the system,” MacDonald said.

In some users it can pass through in a day, while in others, it can hang around for a week, he added. This could – and likely will – create challenges in tracking cannabis impairment if a driver is guilty of causing a motor vehicle incident and tests positive for levels of THC, but is actually sober.

In anticipation of new drunk driving laws and a potential increase in cannabis impairment on the road, MacDonald visited DriveWise B.C.’s Saanich office to experience the driving simulator, without having to ingest either.

The simulator can create a multitude of scenarios and conditions but is also not meant to replace what actually happens on the road, said Kate Wells, operations manager for DriveWise B.C.

Rather, it is to create scenarios so that drivers new and old can learn how to prepare themselves in case they do encounter those situations, she said.

Wearing adapted ski goggles that intentionally blur your vision and depth perception, Wells began driving the machine while MacDonald talked about what impairment symptoms lead to crashes. Mostly weaving, slower reaction times and fatigue, including falling asleep at the wheel, all from high blood alcohol concentrations.

– With files from Keri Coles

reporter@saanichnews.com


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sean Hart, 34, unexpectedly left the Seven Oaks Tertiary Mental Health Facility in Saanich on Nov. 6, 2020 and has now been missing for six months. (Photo courtesy Penny Hart)
Search continues for Saanich man Sean Hart six months after his disappearance

Support from community, police keeps his mother hopeful

Police stopped, then let go this man and his large collection of cans during a stop Monday morning on Resthaven Drive. Police had received a report of a possible theft, but let him go after he had returned the property, which he believed was his to take after being left out in public. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Report of theft, balancing act on Sidney street draws curious onlookers

Incident happened just before 8:30 a.m. opposite of Vancouver Island Regional Library branch

Daniel Foster, last seen in downtown Parksville on Saturday, May 1. (submitted photo)
RCMP seek help locating missing Victoria man, last spotted in Parksville

Daniel Foster, 43, seen via surveillance camera using an ATM

Oak Bay resident Hugh Thompson died Friday, May 7. (GoFundMe photo)
Oak Bay dad dies mountain biking near Shawnigan Lake

Community rallies around family with online fundraiser

Victoria Police Department looks to identify a person of interest after a Friday night stabbing. (VicPD handout)
Police seek person of interest after Victoria stabbing

Friday night assault leaves one with potentially life-altering injuries

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation wants ‘massive change’ after its 3rd police shooting in less than a year

Nuu-chah-nulth woman recovering from gunshot wounds in weekend incident near Ucluelet

Nurse Gurinder Rai, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Maria Yule at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The site is open for vaccinations 11 hours per day to those who have pre-booked an appointment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID vaccine bookings to open for adults 40+, or 18+ in hotspots, across B.C.

Only people who have registered will get their alert to book

Dr. Victoria Lee, CEO of Fraser Health, hosts an update on efforts to contain B.C.’s COVID-19 transmission in Surrey and the Fraser Valley and protect hospitals in the Lower Mainland, May 6, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate slowing, 20 more people die

Deaths include two people in their 40s, two in their 50s

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds are in the Comox Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Suspected bird strike on Snowbirds plane during training in Comox

Pilot followed protocols and landed the aircraft on the ground without any problems

Most Read