CALGARY -- Smoking marijuana within three hours of driving doubles the chances of being involved in a collision, a recently published study shows.
That, combined with the reality auto collisions are the leading cause of death for Canadian teens, drives home the need to see youth taught to take a pass on weed in same way they should nix mixing booze with driving, MADD Canada said.
"People think smoking pot is not as bad as alcohol," national president Denise Dubyk said. "They all impair individuals, the crashes still happen.
"It's about awareness ... it's not just alcohol."
The study published in the British Medical Journal last week showed teens who drove within three hours of smoking pot are twice as likely to be in a collision.
The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse findings showed 10.6% of Grade 12 students in Alberta admit they have driven within one hour of smoking up at least once in the last year.
While perils of drinking and driving are well-documented, the fact marijuana use makes it hard to judge distances and can impede reaction time are less known.
Calgary police drug recognition evaluator, Const. Len Stefaniuk, said there are many myths of pot use being an innocuous precursor to getting behind the wheel,
"Some people think they can concentrate better, which is not true," said the officer, who once pulled over a teen who had pot smoke billowing out his car window but stressed he hadn't been drinking alcohol.
"They have been told for 25 to 30 years 'Don't Drink and Drive,' but nobody told them not to do drugs."
That message is "starting to get out," but needs to be heeded more.
Anthony Chan with Allstate Canada said there is much more awareness, even in the past five years, of drugs being a factor in crashes.
But increasing it is crucial.
"By the time we see mistakes happen, it's too late for many families," he said. "It's something that is so preventable."
Nearly 50% of drivers 19 years of age or younger in Canada who died in traffic crashes between 2000 and 2007 tested positive for alcohol and/or drugs.
NADIA MOHARIB, QMI Agency
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