Store Locator

Impaired Driving Should Play No Part in the Holiday Season

As seasonal gatherings resume, road safety advocates are urging drivers to steer clear of alcohol and drugs

A woman wearing a white sweater and a Santa hat is sitting in the driver seat wearing a seat belt.

With Ontario approaching its first lockdown-free holiday season in two years, road safety advocates are reminding motorists—and in particular teens—about the perils of impaired driving.

The reason? Many are concerned that the return of Christmas parties and other get-togethers could lead to a spike in alcohol- or cannabis-related collisions.

“Last year, the pandemic limited how many family members or friends you could see,” says Michael Stewart, a community relations consultant with CAA South Central Ontario. “This year, the same restrictions aren’t in place. So, if you are planning to consume alcohol or cannabis as part of your celebrations, we want to remind people to make a plan and have a safe ride home mapped out.”

Talking to teens about impaired driving

A sign on a wooden post that reads Safe Roads Safe Community. Below it is a black and white drawing of a martini glass, a cellphone, a marijuana leaf and keys that is crossed out with a circle in red. Down the side there are black letters that spell out the acronym OSAID, which stands for Ontario Students Against Drunk Driving. Below it in a red box is black copy that reads Drive Now Text Later. There is a CAA logo and an Ontario logo at the bottom of the sign.

CAA South Central Ontario has joined forces with Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving (OSAID), which has chapters in about 100 high schools, to take that message to teens. CAA recently sponsored an OSAID campaign that placed road signs in 100 communities urging motorists to drive sober. As part of a partnership that dates back nearly a decade, CAA has also supported efforts by OSAID’s student volunteers to educate their classmates about the dangers of getting behind the wheel while drunk or high.

That peer-learning model is crucial for reaching young drivers, says Stewart.

“When it's coming from a peer or one of their friends, it resonates more than if it's coming from an adult,” Stewart adds.

Working with CAA to advocate for road safety

Matt Evans, OSAID’s projects coordinator, says that the organization has ambitious plans for the coming months. It has put together a youth advisory team that aims to add 25 new chapters with support from CAA and Transport Canada. In partnership with CAA and the provincial transport ministry, OSAID is also planning a series of virtual workshops on impaired driving. Plans are also in the works for the first Students Against Impaired Driving Day, which is set for May 19, 2022.

Debunking misconceptions amongst teens

Experts say awareness-raising initiatives like these are critical given that many teens don’t appreciate how hazardous it is to drive while high. A recent CAA survey from earlier this year found that about 20 percent of those ages 19 to 34 incorrectly think that a cannabis-impaired driver is able to operate a vehicle the same or better than a sober driver. And only 63 percent strongly agree that cannabis-impaired driving is a serious safety risk, the lowest of any age group.

Make a plan if you’ll be consuming alcohol or cannabis

As they do every year, police will be increasing the frequency of checks for impaired drivers this holiday season. Stewart urges anyone planning to consume drugs or alcohol to make arrangements for a way home without getting behind the wheel. That could mean staying over at a friend’s house, catching a ride with a designated driver, taking public transit, calling a cab or using a rideshare service.

“CAA wants the festive season to be a safe and enjoyable one for all,” says Stewart.

Learn more

The effects of cannabis can vary from person to person, and can depend on how it’s consumed. To learn more about cannabis-impaired driving, visit caasco.com/cannabis to continue reading.

If you’re a teacher looking for road safety-related lesson plans, go to Ontario Road Safety Resource for teaching aids to educate children and youth about road safety.

Image credit: Vlad Dmytrenko/iStock