Research Papers

Cannabis Legalization and Driving: Exploring Young Ontarians Knowledge, Perceptions and Attitudes

Version 1
Date added June 18, 2019
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Category 2019 CARSP XXIX Calgary
Tags Research and Evaluation, Session 3A
Author/Auteur Colonna, Alvarez, Holmes, Hand
Stream/Volet Research and Evaluation

Slidedeck Presentation Only:



Background/Context: Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death for Canadian youth. With recreational cannabis now legal across Canada, young drivers, who are already at risk for impaired driving, may increase their use of cannabis and subsequent driving under the influence of cannabis (DUIC). This is problematic, as current literature suggests DUIC doubles the risk of motor vehicle collisions. Moreover, young recreational cannabis users (ages 18 to 24) are at a higher crash risk after cannabis use and are significantly impaired when it comes to complex driving tasks, especially if they are novel. Understanding the factors that influence DUIC among youth is critical in order to develop preventative interventions for this high-risk population.

Aims/Objectives: The purpose of this study was to explore young Ontarian drivers' (ages 18 to 24) knowledge, perceptions and attitudes towards the use and legalization of cannabis in relation to DUIC. Methods/Targets: Young Ontarian drivers (N=426; 53% female) participated in an anonymous online survey consisting of the following sections: demographics, past cannabis use and DUIC, measures of general deterrence (knowledge and credibility of the law), measures of general prevention (general attitudes and social controls), and DUIC expectancies and riding experiences.

Results/Activities: 83.6% (356) reported they had used cannabis in their lifetime (69% in the past 12 months, 54% in the past 30 days, and 17% daily). Among users (356), 41.3% have driven within 2 hours of using cannabis, with 18.8% doing so in the past 30 days. 70.1% of those that engaged in DUIC believed that they can do so safely, 63% believed their driving is not impaired, and 91% believed that it is safer than driving under the influence of alcohol. In addition, only 85.2% (362) were aware that DUIC is illegal, with many uninformed on the specific legal ramifications. Of concern, 59.2% believed that DUIC will increase in young drivers following legalization. The analysis of predictive factors (e.g., the credibility of the DUIC law as a predictor of DUIC decisions) is currently underway and will also be discussed in this presentation.

Discussion/Deliverables: A significant number of young drivers in Ontario currently use cannabis and engage in DUIC. Our findings suggest that many underestimate the associated risks of DUIC and the effects of cannabis on driving performance. The predictive validity of general deterrence and general prevention factors can assist in developing targeted evidence-based interventions for this population.

Conclusions: Understanding the current landscape of DUIC among Canadian youth, including the factors that are predictive of DUIC expectancy, is imperative for the development of preventative interventions targeting cannabis-impaired driving within this high-risk population.