Weed Out the Risks
By Stephanie M.
Within the last decade, there have been an increasing amount of campaigns directed towards the awareness of the dangers of drunk driving. These campaigns have been successful by educating people of the fatal consequences drunk driving can cause. If you ask any teen, almost all will admit to being told not to drive while drunk at one point in their lifetime. We’ve all heard it, but several collisions continue to be caused by alcohol every year. With the amount of publicity this topic receives, it’s astonishing to think that these collisions continue to occur. What’s even scarier is that drugged driving can be just as dangerous, but it seems to have been overlooked by teens, parents, and advocacy organizations. With the legalization of recreational marijuana use most likely in Canada’s near future, it is important to realize the dangers of drugged driving and educate teens and parents about its consequences.
According to research done by Marc Paris, executive director of the Partnership for a Drug Free Canada, the number of teens who drive under the influence of drugs is almost double the number of teens who drive under the influence of alcohol*. One of the reasons this occurrence is so high may be due to the fact that most teens just don’t believe that the risks of driving while high are as dangerous as driving while drunk. Additionally, 34% of teens believe they are actually better drivers when they are under the influence of marijuana**. This misconception is not only blatantly false, but also extremely dangerous. Driving while high impairs several cognitive abilities that are essential for driving safely. Despite what people may choose to believe, driving while high is not safer than driving while drunk. Marijuana impairs you differently than alcohol, but it still impairs you. This drug can affect depth perception, reaction time, and attentiveness: three key factors to staying safe on the road. It also has the ability to affect judgement and decisions-making skills, both which can result in the difference of life or death situations. When these abilities are impaired, collisions – especially those that cause injury or death – become more likely and can result in dire consequences.
Not only is driving after marijuana use dangerous, let’s not forget, it’s also illegal. Whether the drug itself is illegal or not, it is still against the law to be under the influence of this substance while driving. If the collision causes death, current penalties can be as severe as a life sentence in prison. Other penalties include fines starting at $1000 and prison sentences starting at 120 days***. While these penalties are a good step forward, preventing drugged driving starts with education. Methods should be focused at education to prevent these collisions before these consequences need to be applied; decreasing the likelihood of collisions caused by marijuana use starts with prevention. Unfortunately, most parents don’t think about drugged driving as much as they do drunk driving. Teens need to know what the consequences are before they happen. This action can be as simple as just talking to your teen. Have a conversation with them. Let them know how and why it’s so dangerous to drive while high. Whether you condone the use of marijuana as a recreational drug or not, it is important to face the reality that at one point in their life, your teen may feel tempted to use this substance and potentially drive while under its influence. Talking to them early and setting clear expectations about the type of responsibility you expect them to have as a driver can make a huge difference in stopping potential collisions, injuries, or even death caused by driving while high.
It’s also important to note that these prevention practices aren’t just restricted to teens. Often, adults are also subject to the temptations of driving under the influence of marijuana, even if they’re more hesitant to admit it. As the potential legalization of marijuana comes closer within reach, we need to pay attention to the importance of providing education on the dangers of this subject that is often overlooked. Whether it’s your teens, yourself, or a friend, drugged driving is never okay.
Bike Safety Month 2017
Biker safety month 2017 takes place between May 29th and the end of June. Since there is much controversy in the area of bikes and vehicles sharing the road together, Ontario is taking on the Biker Safety Month initiative. Not only is this for adult bikers sharing the road with vehicles, but it is also to promote children biking to their destinations (school), the benefits of it, and fun activities taking place during the month.
The Ontario Highway Safety Act defines a bike as “a vehicle that belongs on the road, which means all road users need to be aware of, and follow the rules” (bikemonth.ca). As a cyclist, you must share the road with other people and vehicles, including cars, buses, trucks, other bikes, motorcycles, etc. Since a bicycle is a vehicle, they must follow the same protocol as all other vehicles on the road: must obey all traffic-related laws have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers, and they cannot carry passengers. They are required to stay as close to the right side of the road as possible, and can legally ride on most roads except the 400-series highways, or roads with pedestrian cross-overs.
Between 2009 and 2011, 67% of bike-related deaths were considered to be the partial fault of the driver, and only 27% of those drivers involved in these cyclist injuries/fatalities were charged. If a charge did occur, it was a simple fine of $1000 or less, rather than jail time, license suspension, etc. Just like with cars and crashes, “bicycle crashes are not bicycle “accidents.” Lawyers in the Bike Law Network have handled thousands of them, and we understand the difference” (bikemonth.ca). To prevent cyclists from getting hit by vehicles/drivers, you should wear a headlight/reflector, wave, and use signals to show vehicles on the road your plan of action, as well as slow down, and do not expect that the driver can see you.
Change needs to happen, and it can if the province implements the Vulnerable Road User law, which enforces more serious consequences to drivers and would make them be more aware of their surroundings, more cautious, and more courteous when sharing the roads with bikes.
Bike to School week is from May 30th to June 3rd, and provides children with some of the necessary exercise they require, as well as making them more aware, focused, and energized in their learning environments at school. Unfortunately, very few children in the GTA and Hamilton bike to school, with even fewer walking to school. This is evidently a much-needed initiative.
Reasons to bike to school/work (if feasible) include, but are not limited to: being inexpensive (only $500/year compared to tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars annual to maintain a car), basically a free/nearly free gym membership (getting exercise just by commuting to school or work, which you would have to do anyway, rather than finding time in the day to go to the gym), much faster and more time efficient as there is little to no traffic for cyclists, makes you more focused and ready to work during the day, and parking is always free!
Simple Ways to Increase Your Pedestrian Safety
By Emily C. “Look both ways when you cross the street!” is a phrase we have all been familiar with since we were little. Seems pretty simple. But the statistics for pedestrian injuries and fatalities is high even knowing this simple task. Approximately 4100 pedestrians died in the US in