Road safety campaign targets 'sensible stoners' Tuesday, 20 August 2013

source: ODT

'Sensible stoners' are the target of a new advertising campaign which aims to reduce the number of crashes on our roads.

NZ Transport Agency advertisements, which begin screening tonight, target drivers aged in their 30s and 40s who think it's okay to drive after using cannabis.

The ads are the first in New Zealand to directly target cannabis users who drive under the influence. According to the NZ Drug Foundation, two-thirds of cannabis users admit to driving under the influence of drugs.

"By and large these people are not risk-takers. We're talking to the 'sensible stoners' who believe that using cannabis has little impact on their driving," said Transport Agency road safety director Ernst Zollner.

"Many believe that they are safer drivers because they think they're more focused, drive slower and are therefore more careful on the roads. They don't consider what they're doing to be dangerous - but we're asking them to reconsider that notion, because the facts tell a very different story."

International evidence shows drivers under the influence of cannabis are more likely to cause car crashes, and the more cannabis smoked, the worse the driving is.

Recent studies show drivers with cannabis - and no other substances - in their systems were almost twice as likely to be to blame for a fatal car crash than unimpaired drivers. Drivers with higher doses of cannabis in their systems were more likely to be at fault in the crash that killed them.

"While it's a commonly held belief that drivers under the influence of cannabis are safer because they drive more slowly, the evidence clearly shows that cannabis use slows down reaction times, which means you are more likely to crash," Mr Zollner said.

"Road crashes happen very suddenly and unexpectedly, and slower reaction times mean you're much less likely to see a crash coming in time to avoid it."

The new ads mark the second stage in a long-term Transport Agency campaign aimed at challenging misconceptions about drugged-driving.

A recent Transport Agency national poll showed 56 per cent of respondents thought drug-driving was a problem, and 32 per cent considered it safe to use cannabis then drive.

The new campaign uses community 'experts' who have regular contact with those who drive after using cannabis, including bakery owners, dairy owners, fish and chip shop workers and the children of those who use the drug. It aims to get drugged drivers to acknowledge that when they use cannabis, they are slower at doing everyday tasks.

"We're simply looking for these people to acknowledge that cannabis slows their reaction times, and to start to question the safety of their driving when their ability to react to a situation may not be as fast as it could be," Mr Zollner said.

More than half (58 per cent) of all New Zealand drivers under the influence of cannabis think being stoned makes no difference to their driving ability, said the Drug Foundation.