Research Papers

Alcohol and cannabis impaired driving among Atlantic Canadian high school students

Filename 2B-Jennifer-Heatley.pdf
Filesize 96 KB
Version 1
Date added May 8, 2011
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Category 2011 CMRSC XXI Halifax
Tags Session 2B
Author/Auteur Jennifer Heatley, Beth Bruce, Morris Green


PURPOSE Motor vehicle collisions (MVC) are one of the leading causes of death for Canadian youth. Previous research has demonstrated that many Atlantic Canadian youth have experienced MVC-related injuries or been at high risk of MVC-related injuries as a result of substance use. [1] The purpose of this study was to assess current attitudes towards alcohol and cannabis impaired driving and the prevalence of impaired driving among Atlantic Canadian high school students. METHODS During the 2009/2010 school year, four high schools each from Prince Edward Island (PEI) and Newfoundland (NL) and two high schools each from Nova Scotia (NS) and New Brunswick (NB) participated in the study Surveys were completed anonymously by 576 students. Data was analyzed using SPSS 17.0. Frequency distributions and chi square analysis were completed. RESULTS The average age of the youth was 15.9 years with the majority in Grade 10, slightly less than half were males and the majority were rural dwellers. Students reported that in the 3 months prior to being surveyed, 70% had consumed alcohol and 28% had used cannabis. Over 100 students (19%) reported they had been a passenger in a vehicle with a drinking driver in the past 3 months. Students themselves reported driving after drinking (4%) and driving while high (6%). Significant differences between provinces were not detected. With respect to attitudes, students reported that alcohol (88%) and drug use (80%) were more likely to result in a crash than distraction (71%), speeding (67%), fatigue (65%), and cell phone use (60%). Respondents felt that 28% of their peers would not be concerned with alcohol impaired driving and 40% would not be concerned with drug impaired driving. Less than half of students reported using seat belts regularly. CONCLUSION The study findings provide evidence of the significant number of students in Atlantic Canada who continue to drive impaired or ride with a driver who is impaired despite persistent efforts to establish safer driving behaviours. In addition, there are a significant proportion of students who underestimate the risk of such behaviour. These findings have important implications for school-based prevention programming and broader public policy.

Jennifer Heatley, Beth Bruce, Morris Green