Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation rolled out a new message on its highway billboards this month, asking drivers to stay off the road if they’ve been using marijuana.
Don’t drink and drive.
Don’t text and drive, either.
Buckle up, and don’t forget, speed kills.
If you’re a driver in southern Ontario, you should be accustomed to seeing those messages on some of the electronic signs placed over the province’s highways, but you may have recently noticed a new addition: “DON’T DRIVE HIGH.”
Launched this month by the Ministry of Transportation, the new message features a perky, bright-green, crossed-out marijuana leaf with a set of keys surrounded on either side with the slogans “don’t drive high” and a slightly more casual French equivalent, “ne pas conduire défoncé.”
In an email, MTO spokesperson Astrid Poei said the message is part of an ongoing awareness campaign about penalties for drug-impaired driving the provincial government introduced last year. There’s a more timely reason for the message’s introduction as well — besides the infamous 4/20 “holiday,” the federal government also unveiled its proposed marijuana legalization bill in Ottawa on April 13.
“Given the impending federal legalization of cannabis, the ministry also wanted to reinforce the message that driving under the influence of a drug (including cannabis) is still illegal and dangerous,” Poei wrote, adding that the ministry regularly considers new messages for its signs based on “traffic safety and operational efficiency” and rotates message themes monthly.
OPP Highway Safety Division Sgt. Kerry Schmidt told the Star the “don’t drive high” theme is a welcome reminder about the dangers of impaired driving, a message that some drivers still aren’t getting.
“We are certainly seeing more and more people driving under the influence of drugs and more people being charged,” Schmidt said, noting that part of reason for that increase may be because officers are receiving more training on detecting drug impairment.
Schmidt couldn’t immediately provide numbers on how many drivers the OPP has arrested for being high behind the wheel, but said that over a 24-hour period last week, 28 people were arrested for impaired driving overall.
“An impaired driver is an impaired driver. It doesn’t matter if you’re impaired by alcohol, drugs — marijuana or any other drugs — if you’re impaired, you’re impaired, and you can’t make decisions, you can’t process the information that’s coming in at you so quickly” he said.
“And it’s maybe just a misconception that people think that they can drive better while high — well, that’s a blatant myth,” he added. “We see it all over, where people are crashing their cars and getting into trouble and getting into collisions because of their impairment.”
Source: The Hamilton Spectator