Cannabis & road safety : policy challenges.
20160901 ST [electronic version only]
Robertson, R.D. Woods-Fry, H. & Morris, K.
Ottawa, Ontario, Traffic Injury Research Foundation of Canada TIRF, 2016, VIII + 30 p., 19 ref. - ISBN 978-1-926857-78-7
|Samenvatting||Drugged driving has been increasingly recognized as a priority in the past decade. Growing discussions among Federal government agencies regarding public safety concerns and the regulatory approach to cannabis has prompted greater attention to drugged driving and strategies to address this problem. Coordinated action across law enforcement, transportation and health sectors at Federal and provincial/territorial levels is needed to keep Canadians safe on our roads. To date, governments have been challenged by competing road safety priorities and the issue of drugged driving has been one of many that demands attention. As such, the recent focus on cannabis provides an important opportunity to review and explore effective strategies to prevent and reduce drugged driving. To this end, several priority issues must be addressed and resolved so that provincial governments and road safety stakeholders are able to implement effective policies and programs with respect to cannabis-impaired driving. These issues include: research, laws and penalties, implementation strategies, public perceptions and education, and metrics and evaluation. Decisions in these areas will influence effectiveness in preventing and reducing cannabis-impaired driving. The identification of priority strategies, relevant issues, and implementation plans was a central focus of this study, which can serve to inform road safety strategies for drugged driving. A total of 46 individuals consisting of both line staff and managers from 25 agencies that represented Federal and provincial stakeholders in the areas of law enforcement, transportation and health were interviewed to identify cannabis-impaired driving legislative and policy priorities, the types of knowledge that are most relevant to inform decision-making in these areas, and concerns related to implementation. The results from this study highlighted the priority issues related to cannabis-impaired driving that require attention and coordinated action. These results provided practical insight into the knowledge and tools that are needed to help stakeholders address this issue, and, the remaining barriers that must be overcome to ensure road safety enhancements. The following results highlight the top five areas of consensus: Research: * To date, research conducted on the effects of cannabis is relatively scarce in comparison to the body of research that has been conducted on alcohol and as a consequence, important questions remain unanswered. Key questions include: » What is the relationship between cannabis and its impairing effects on driving ability, and how will the THC concentration and method of ingestion affect impairment? » Will the new regime for cannabis have any effect on impaired-driving fatal and serious injury crashes? » What are the best practices for remedial programs for drivers convicted of cannabisimpaired driving? Laws & penalties: * Laws and penalties for drug-impaired driving that are in place can be enhanced; however, the strengths and limitations of optional approaches should be carefully considered. The ability of police to reasonably investigate and detect impairment will be shaped by these decisions. They will require the investigative ability and tools to detect all forms of cannabis impairment. » The impairing effects of cannabis can vary over time in accordance with how the drug was ingested, and therefore the window of time that officers have to investigate should acknowledge these differences. » What are the skills and qualifications that will be required of officers who utilize oral fluid devices? Implementation strategies: * Well-planned, operational practices are necessary to ensure legislation is implemented and to provide practitioners with the guidance and tools which are a linchpin to success. * Time, capacity and resources are essential for jurisdictions to implement drugged driving policy in accordance with regulatory approaches. It could take 18 to 24 months for provincial/territorial governments to put practices into place. * Lessons learned from other jurisdictions that have undertaken such regulatory changes highlight the need for adequate preparedness, since it has been more difficult to overcome gaps using post hoc strategies. * Inadequate funding is the most significant barrier to implementation. There are substantial cost implications associated with additional staff, training and certification, roadside devices and test analysis, increased emergency room capabilities, data collection and evaluation, and public education initiatives. Other priorities in terms of practice include: » Strengthening the number of officers trained to recognize impairment (SFST and DRE trained officers). » Increasing knowledge of drug-impairment and DRE evidence among court personnel. » Considering the implementation of oral fluid devices. » Increasing the capacity for health services to accommodate the rise in emergency room (ER) admissions due to cannabis overdose or accidental ingestion. » Reviewing the capacity of labs to analyze a growing number of samples and report test results in a timely manner in order to avoid undue delays and to ensure due process protections. * Many of these initiatives are already underway and continued efforts are needed. Public perceptions & education: * The pervasiveness of messages from pro-cannabis groups has made it more challenging for road safety messages to be heard. As such, it is important that road safety stakeholders are equally vocal and convey a message that is widely heard so Canadians can make informed decisions based on more complete knowledge of the issue. Prevalent misperceptions include: » “Cannabis is not harmful.” It is often reported that cannabis is perceived as a healthy and organic medicinal and natural herb. » “Cannabis does not impair driving ability.” It is often reported that users feel they are ‘better’ driver after using cannabis, and they believe that they drive more cautiously, at slower speeds, and take fewer risks. » “Police are unable to detect cannabis-impaired drivers or remove them from the road.” The experiences of police officers suggest that a least a proportion of drivers do not know that tools are available to test for cannabis impairment at the roadside. * Public education campaigns that are delivered in advance of any changes to the regulatory framework, and as often as possible, will ensure that the public has had time to establish a knowledge base on this issue. The delivery of a coordinated and consistent national message can be formed though an inclusive partnership, between government and one or more national road safety stakeholders that can provide access to a large audience of members. * It will be beneficial for public education campaigns to emphasize the impairing effects and risks associated with cannabis and driving. Messages that are targeted towards youth and high-risk populations will help key lessons resonate with these specific groups. However, it will be important to ensure that messages do not inadvertently encourage persons who may not otherwise use cannabis, and who may be pre-disposed to substance misuse or abuse, to avoid initiating use. Comparisons with alcohol impairment should also be avoided in light of evidence that these drugs have different effects and are metabolized differently. Metrics & evaluation: * The ability to consistently collect data and track, monitor and evaluate the effects of cannabis on road safety, and the effects of programs and policies to reduce and prevent cannabis-impaired driving will be critical to gauge current and future strategies. * Improvements in data collection and standardization will help increase knowledge and coordination of activities across sectors, promoting the mobilization of joint strategies to address this issue. * Improvements in data collection will make it possible to measure progress in order to obtain long-term insight into the effectiveness of cannabis-impaired driving prevention strategies * Partnerships between Federal and provincial agencies representing law enforcement, transportation and health will be important to create a national picture on cannabisimpaired driving. To conclude, cannabis-impaired driving is complex, and it will require a continuum of road safety strategies to complement new legislative changes to cannabis regulation. To realize this, communication and direction from the Federal agencies that reaches through to the level of frontline practitioners would help inform initiatives that are planned or underway. This would be indispensable and would aid the allocation of resources and help avoid duplication. Fortunately, there is avid receptivity from stakeholders and road safety practitioners, and much work is already underway by various governments. In addition to this, cannabis-impaired driving prevention will require adequate resources in the form of capacity, time and funding to support the necessary large-scale modifications to road safety policies and programs to reinforce the emphasis on safety underscored by the Federal government. In light of the time required to affect policy change and put into practice strategies and programs, it would be beneficial to ensure that sufficient time is made available to assist provinces in realizing these changes. (Author/publisher)|
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