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Impairment rate for injured drivers much higher in Atlantic Canada: study

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The number of impaired drivers injured in vehicle crashes in Atlantic Canada far outweighs the national average.

A study from the University of British Columbia shows 70 per cent of injured drivers in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland tested between 2018 and 2023 showed certain levels of impairment in their blood samples.

This rate is significantly higher compared to the rest of Canada, which showed nearly 54 per cent of injured drivers across the rest of Canada, during the same time frame, tested positive for either drugs or alcohol following a vehicle crash.

Researchers found cannabis is emerging as the most common form of impairment in toxicology tests from patients who are taken to the hospital following a motor vehicle collision.

However, they noted the cannabis levels were not always high enough to suggest impairment or increased risk of a crash at the time of the blood test and say alcohol impairment continues to be a greater problem with road safety.

Data from Atlantic Canada shows:

  • 51 per cent of the 437 drivers who tested positive for drugs or alcohol had used more than one impairing substance
  • 19 per cent of all drivers had used cocaine or amphetamines
  • 17 per cent had over 0.05 per cent blood alcohol content
  • 15 per cent had over 2 ng/mL of THC (from cannabis)
  • 47 per cent had used opioids or depressants
  • more drivers tested positive for cannabis (26 per cent) than alcohol (22 per cent) in Atlantic provinces

Research showed one in five injured drivers in Canada (21 per cent) tested positive for having used and showed signs of impairment by multiple substances.

That number is much higher again in Atlantic Canada, where nearly 51 per cent of blood samples taken from injured drivers showed two or more drugs in their system at the time of the crash.

The study suggests the launch of a marketing campaign against impaired driving to educate and help prevent further impaired driving, while implementing a traffic policy targeting alcohol and cannabis use while driving. 

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