Drug-Impaired Driving: A Fatal Issue for Canadian Teens

Parents Must Discuss the Dangers of Driving Under the Influence of Drugs with their Teenagers

Aurora, Ontario (October 20, 2014) – While the effects of alcohol consumption when driving are well documented, there is growing concern that drug-impaired driving is just as dangerous, particularly amongst teen drivers. In fact, recent findings indicate that the number of teen fatalities from auto collisions who tested positive for drugs rose significantly between 2000 and 2010 to a level comparable to those who tested positive for alcohol.

A new review of secondary research by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) shows that in 2000, a greater percentage of fatally injured 16-19 year old drivers tested positive for alcohol than for drugs (40.3% versus 23.6%). However, in 2010, while alcohol related fatalities decreased slightly to 36.6%, drug related fatalities among 16-19 year old drivers increased by roughly 16% to 39.2%, suggesting that the two issues have become equally important to address.

"While drug-impaired driving isn't necessarily new, this upward trend demonstrates that our society needs to increase awareness of the dangers, similar to what we have with alcohol," said Ward Vanlaar, Vice President Research, Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF). "Anybody looking at the data will understand why, especially when they see a peak year like 2006 where close to half, 43.7%, of fatally injured teens tested positive for drugs in their system."

The representative drugs found include illicit substances, prescription drugs, and over-the-counter medications. Some were used in combination and all could affect a driver's ability. An examination of the 2008 to 2010 period revealed that cannabis was by far the most prevalent substance, with 28.6% of fatally-injured drivers testing positive for this substance.

"Parents can help teenagers develop safe driving habits. Through regular conversations teens can be taught the risks of alcohol and drugs, from cannabis to cold medications, when behind the wheel," John Bordignon, Media Relations, State Farm®. "While teens make up the smallest percentage of drivers on the road, they have a higher risk of death per kilometre than any other age group, and so many of those deaths are preventable. Parents may find that conversations about driving under the influence of drugs are difficult, but they are necessary to empower teenagers to make better decisions that could save lives."

While regular conversations about drug and alcohol use are important for all teens, among 16-19 year olds, males may be more at risk of dying in a crash when driving under the influence. Further research into the 2008 to 2010 period indicates that 43% of males fatally injured in collisions tested positive for drugs, compared to 25.4% of females.

In its continued dedication to safe teen driving, State Farm has partnered with the charitable organization Parachute - - to help establish a National Teen Driver Safety Week (NTDSW) in Canada every third week of October. NTDSW is dedicated to raising awareness about safe teen driving and seeking solutions for unnecessary teen road-related injuries and fatalities.