On February 2, 2018, Glen Motz gave the following speech in the House of Commons:
I rise today to lend my support to the Member from Saint-Leonard – Saint Michel’s motion to create a National Impaired Driving Prevention Week. A similar effort has been underway in Alberta, where December is recognized as Impaired Driving Awareness Month. Both intents are the same – to raise awareness of impaired driving and encourage people to drive sober.
I salute my colleague and others for sharing their personal stories. As a former police officer, I have seen too many preventable and tragic accidents coming from a decision to drive after drinking or taking drugs.
It is encouraging that many of the discussions and stories during debates have focused on the impacts on families and communities and support for the victims of these accidents.
Any effort that can reduce the unnecessary loss of life and make our roads safer is worth our attention and effort in the House. We can show that we can rise above partisanship.
By supporting the National Impaired Driving Prevention Week, my hope is that we can decrease the number of those who drive while impaired. These campaigns have been proven to work – over the last 30 years, impaired driving – including by drugs OR alcohol – is down 65%. Today, we are at the lowest rate ever recorded. That is both a cause of celebration and a reminder that the job is not yet done. When it comes to impaired driving, one is too many.
Why did impaired driving drop significantly during this time period?
First, was an attitude shift. Punishments changed and how we deal with impaired drivers shifted. Gone were the days when police drove you home instead of arresting you. Zero tolerance was adopted, and those that broke the law faced the consequences of their actions.
As a society, we changed our view of drinking and driving. The era of “one for the road” ended. Today, most consider impaired driving a social taboo. Complacency or acceptance of this practice is at an all-time low.
For our youth today, there is pressure to stop friends from driving while impaired, along with education on how to recognize and avoid driving while impaired.
All of this has been through community and education efforts of groups like MADD Canada (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). Through their campaigns, MADD and others have reduced the number of fatalities, accidents and victims. These groups have rallied industry to help with education efforts in win-win scenarios that sees more people arrive alive.
But more can and should be done. Nearly 60% of crash deaths today still involve drivers with some alcohol or drugs in their system. The most recent statistics show over 72,000 incidents of impaired driving in Canada in 2015. There is still a lot of room for improvement.
We need to continue the trend of fewer impaired drivers and fewer families left to pick up the pieces after losing a loved one. I hope that by dedicating a week specific to this issue, we are able to rally education efforts across various groups, and further empower our police services to protect Canadians from drunk drivers.
MARIHUANA and IMPAIRMENT
As we debate this Motion to prevent impaired driving, a surprising number of Members in this House continue to support legalized marihuana. Make no mistake, Marihuana legalization will result in more impaired driving deaths, more accidents, and an increased risk to road safety.
History has already shown us the results: Colorado legalized marihuana a little more than five years ago. A summary of the impacts in the US were far gloomier than the Liberals proposed plan, even though the political promises were the same.
In the US, Politicians promised that legalization would reduce impacts of organized crime, increase tax revenue, decrease crime rates, and improve controls over youth access to drugs. However, reports show that organized crime continues to do well – including operating in both the legal market and the illegal market, where prices are tax free and significantly lower. Instead of higher tax revenues, there has been pressure on social services as addiction rates, homelessness and youth use increased. For impaired drivers, the first year saw marihuana-related traffic deaths increase 92%. Youth access has spiked – even though the legal age of use is 21 in Colorado. Youth rates were significantly higher in legalized states versus non-legalized states. Drug-related high school suspensions went up 40%. Today in Colorado, business groups, doctors and health providers are trying to rally the public to reverse the legalization.
Washington State has a similar story according to the Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area report – part of the White House ’s efforts to reduce drugs – drivers involved in fatal crashes with drugs in their system increased 122%.
Nearly two in three DUIs for marihuana involved youth – with 20% of youth reporting they were in a car with a driver who had used marihuana. Similarly, half of school expulsions and 42% of drug suspensions were marihuana related.
These numbers are consistent and clearly show that Canada should know and prepare for a major issue related to drug impaired driving.
Sadly, the Government has not been listening. Canada’s Chiefs of Police warn that they will not be able to equip and train enough police on drug testing processes and procedures in time for the arbitrary summer deadline. That does not help police serve their community. It will not help protect innocent victims from impaired drivers. And it is entirely avoidable.
This new, National Impaired Driving Prevention Week will no doubt help educate Canadians on the dangers of using marihuana and driving. And lots of education is needed, because many Canadians still believe that the impacts of marihuana and alcohol are the same, if not less with cannabis.
Unlike alcohol, marihuana takes seconds to impact the brain – the user feels and exhibits the effects immediately. While peak effects are reached quickly and dissipate within 2-3 hours, marihuana impairment can last up to twenty four hours. The drug impacts critical functions depending on the strength of the drug and frequency of use. And those functions – like critical thinking, reflexes, perception, balance, motor control, reaction times – are all essential to driving.
And worse for our kids – the impairment is not immediately recognized by the user or others who interact with them. Where the signs of alcohol impairment can warn us not to get in the car with someone, those same warning signs may not be there for a marihuana high.
So, the least we can do is create a week to education people on the dangers of driving while impaired – since we know there will be significantly more people driving while impaired when marihuana is legalized.
Those who ultimately pay the price for impaired driving are the victims. We cannot debate this issue without making the families, friends and loved ones of the victims’ central to this issue. As the Member from Saint-Leonard – Saint Michel has seen and experienced firsthand from his statements in the House – the innocent victims pay a significant price by those who make the decision to drive under the influence. All other penalties – jail, community service, criminal records – pale in comparison.
I ask all MPs who stand in the House to support the Member’s Motion, to also re-examine their support for legalizing marihuana. If our goal as Members of this House is to improve our society and leave a brighter future for our children, then the legalization of marihuana does not align with those ideals.
Mr. Speaker, Canada’s record for impaired driving has been getting better each year, but 72,000 incidents of impaired driving remain far too many. And with this government’s decision to legalize marihuana will – without question – create thousands more drug-impaired drivers. With this law being rushed in, the government puts the safety of its citizens at risk.
There is clearly a need to better inform and prepare Canadians. With this new National Impaired Driving Prevention Week, it is my hope that industry, community, and public agencies can rally together to improve road safety and the education of Canadians.
With this new week, we can continue to improve awareness, social pressure and enforcement to reduce impaired driving. We can honour and remember innocent victims who were lost to these senseless acts of driving while impaired. And this new week can play a small part in the creation of a better and safer future.