Fatal car crashes were up 12 per cent on the evening of 4/20 – the day marijuana users head out to get high on Parliament Hill and other public places.
According to an analysis of 25 years worth of data, there was also a marked increase (38 per cent) of fatal accidents on April 20 for drivers under the age of 21.
The data comes from U.S. sources, but lead researcher John Staples from the University of British Columbia says it’s relevant for Canadians too.
“Yes, this examines the American data but it’s possible that our results would apply to Canada as well,” Staples told Global News.
He says it’s relevant in today’s world as we approach legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada. Legislation is expected to be tabled in the House of Commons in July.
“I think the main take-home for policy makers is that drugged driving is a problem and with thoughtful policy, we will reduce the rate of drugged driving and we can prevent traffic injury problems,” he said.
The study lacks evidence on whether pot was involved in any of the April 20 crashes, but marijuana can impair driving ability, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Previous studies have shown that many pot-using motorists drive after partaking and think it’s safe to do so.
However, the U.S. agency also notes that directly linking marijuana with car crashes can be difficult because it’s often used while drinking alcohol.
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Staples says while there’s a broad consensus in scientific communities, not everyone recognizes that cannabis use can impair your driving.
He’s hoping the results of the paper, which was published Tuesday in JAMA Internal Medicine, can bring awareness to the issue – and ultimately prevent more injuries.
“And I hope these results are a stimulus to 4/20 event organizers to remember to protect festival attendees by making safer transportation part of the festival plan.”
*With files from the Associated Press