Drug-impaired driving rose 43 percent after 2018 legalization of cannabis in Canada

Canadian police reported 6,453 drug-impaired driving incidents in 2019

Statistics Canada report says cannabis was “responsible for only a portion of drug-impaired driving incidents”. Azure-Dragon/Getty Images

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Police across Canada reported a total of 85,673 incidents of alcohol- and drug-impaired driving in 2019.

A report says it’s the highest number since 2011, representing a rate of 228 incidents per population of 100,000.

The Statistics Canada report also noted that the 2019 number constitutes an increase of 19 percent over the previous year, and 21 percent over the low record in 2017.

The report titled “Impaired driving in Canada, 2019” was prepared by Samuel Perreault. It was released on July 15, 2021.

The paper stated that police reported 6,453 incidents of drug-impaired driving in 2019.

The number represents a rate of 17 incidents per population of 100,000.

The Statistics Canada report noted that although drug-impaired driving incidents represent only eight percent of all impaired-driving incidents, the rate increased by 43 percent from 2018.

The paper likewise stated that the 2019 number for drug-impaired driving was “about four times higher than the rate recorded in 2009”.

The year 2009 had 4.3 incidents per population of 100,000, and it was the first full year when police-reported data on drug-impaired driving became available.

In comparison, the rate of alcohol-impaired driving has fallen by 20 percent since 2009, the Statistics Canada report stated.

Moreover, the proportion of drug-impaired driving incidents rose from less than two percent in 2009 to eight percent of all impaired driving incidents in 2019.

The report noted that the legalization of recreational cannabis in 2018 “raised some concerns about drug-impaired driving”.

“At the same time as legalization, the Government of Canada began revising the provisions of the Criminal Code dealing with impaired driving, namely by creating new offences and expanding the powers of police to detect impairment,” the document stated.

The report does not include details as to which substance was involved in drug-impaired driving.

It stated that “police-reported drug-impaired driving data include impairment by any type of drug”.

“Although cannabis is likely common intoxicating substance, it is responsible for only a portion of drug-impaired driving incidents,” the document noted.

In addition, “According to various studies, other drugs, including medications that may affect driving ability, may also be frequently involved.”

Statistics Canada also reported that most census metropolitan areas had overall impaired-driving rates that were lower than the 2019 national rate of 228 per population of 100,000.

Out of the 34 metropolitan areas, Moncton, Abbotsford–Mission, Lethbridge, Vancouver, Victoria, Halifax and Edmonton had an impaired driving rate greater than 228 incidents per 100,000 number of population.

To read more, see report here.

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