More data needed on drug-impaired driving: CSAM report

Sep 29, 2022

According to the findings of a new report released by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, more data is needed about drug-impaired driving. Specifically, the report states that medical examiners and police do not provide enough information for policy makers, decision makers, and road and public safety practitioners to better understand and address the extent and impact of drug-impaired driving in Canada.

“What Canada does know about drug-impaired driving is concerning. Coroner and medical examiner reports reveal that nearly half of drivers who died in 2016 […] tested positive for impairing drugs,” reads the report.

The CSAM report also suggests that collecting data from sources beyond deaths and criminal acts can help to understand drug-impaired driving and help reduce the issue. For example, emerging data from roadside surveys, which involve randomly testing drivers for drug consumption shows that the risk of drug-impaired driving may be increasing among older drivers. The report also states that only a limited number of roadside surveys was conducted in Canada, and only in some jurisdictions. Furthermore, Canada collects little to no data on injured drivers hospitalized from potential drug-impaired incidents, passengers and other road users involved in drug-impaired incidents and drug-impaired court cases.

The advisory committee which outlined recommendations included in the report also identified the need for more data involving oral fluid tests for cannabis use.

“Certain occupations are associated with increased risk of substance use and potential impairment due to their employment conditions or work environment, including drivers in the commercial vehicle industry,” stated the report.

The report points out that a problem with the Canadian data about injuries and/or fatalities is that it may not be truly indicative of drug-impaired driving because commercial vehicle drivers are less likely to be killed in such collisions, meaning there is data missing regarding commercial impairment situations.

“Canada has an incomplete picture of its [drug-induced driving] problem,” the report concludes. “Although organizations collect some important and useful data on the issue, these data are primarily from criminal and death perspectives, and they miss critical information from multiple other sources. Broadening the scope of data collection (e.g., hospital data, roadside survey data) and improving the methods used to collect them (e.g., standardization, systematization) will provide substantially more insight and help policy makers, decision makers, and road and public safety practitioners in their ongoing work to reduce [drug-induced driving].”

As part of the report, the Advisory Committee developed a set of 34 national indicators to measure drug-impaired driving pertaining to law enforcement incident data and resource use data, judicial court data, fatality and injury data, roadside survey data (including commercial vehicle operator data), Motor Vehicle Division driver record data and public data from national surveys.