Ontario’s Drug Impaired Driving Laws
Your path to lower auto insurance rates starts with safe, responsible driving. Which means if you’re planning on getting behind the wheel, you should avoid ANY drug that can impair your driving – just as you should avoid too much alcohol. And as of October 2, 2016, drug impaired drivers in Ontario face the same penalties as drunk drivers. Therefore, it’s important to that you understand both the risks and the penalties of drug impaired driving. Obeying the law will help you stay on the safe, responsible path.
Ontario drivers must also keep in mind, you can be charged with impaired driving while operating a vehicle of any kind. Even if you’re driving a snowmobile or off-road vehicle, you could face a drug impaired driving charge.
How do Drugs Impair Driving?
According to the Canadian Centre for Substance abuse, nearly as many drivers died in road crashes after using drugs (34.2%) as those who had been drinking (39.1%) in 2010.
The way in which a specific drug impairs driving depends on how it affects the brain. Marijuana can slow reaction time, impair your judgment of time and distance, and decrease coordination. Cocaine or methamphetamine can result in aggressive and reckless driving. sedatives and benzodiazepines (eg. sleep aids) can cause dizziness and drowsiness while driving. All of these impairments increase the risk of a crash.1-3
Some drivers are surprised to learn that even over-the-counter medications can impair your ability to drive safely.
Drug Impaired Driving Crash Risks v. Sober Driving
Cannabis: Two to six times more likely to be involved in a crash. 4,5
Cocaine: Two to ten times more likely to be involved in a crash. 6
Opioids: Up to eight times more likely to be involved in a crash. 9
Sedatives: Two to eight times more likely be involved in a fatal crash. 7,8
Benzodiazepine (eg. sleep aids): Two to five times more likely to be involved in a crash. 7,5,10
What are the Penalties for Drug-impaired Driving?
In addition to increasing your risk of a crash, drug impaired driving comes with significant penalties including:
- A $180 fine
- An immediate licence suspension of three days for the first occurrence, seven days for the second occurrence and 30 days for the third and subsequent occurrences upon failure of a roadside sobriety test
- A possible 90-day licence suspension and a seven-day vehicle impoundment following further testing by a drug recognition expert at a police station
- Mandatory education or treatment programs and installation of an ignition interlock device in their vehicle, for drivers with two or more licence suspensions involving alcohol or drugs within a 10-year period
- In addition, impaired driving can lead to criminal charges which could result in a loss of licence, additional fines and jail time
If you are convicted of drug-impaired driving, the conviction will appear on your driving record and can affect your insurance rates.
To prevent unintentionally driving while drug-impaired, be sure to talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking. Your doctor can explain any side effects and advise of any driving restrictions associated with your medications.
Keep your driving record clean by avoiding drug impaired driving and drive sober every time you get behind the wheel. Driving sober is always the right choice for your safety and your insurance rates.
To learn more about drug impaired driving, visit the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse website.
- Lenné MG, Dietze PM, Triggs TJ, Walmsley S, Murphy B, Redman JR. The effects of cannabis and alcohol on simulated arterial driving: Influences of driving experience and task demand. Accid Anal Prev. 2010;42(3):859-866. doi:10.1016/j.aap.2009.04.021.
- Hartman RL, Brown TL, Milavetz G, et al. Cannabis effects on driving lateral control with and without alcohol. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015;154:25-37. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.06.015.
- Hartman RL, Huestis MA. Cannabis effects on driving skills. Clin Chem. 2013;59(3):478-492. doi:10.1373/clinchem.2012.194381.
- Asbridge, M., Hayden, J.A., & Cartwright, J.L. (2012). Acute cannabis consumption and motor vehicle collision risk: systematic review of observational studies and meta-analysis. British Medical Journal, 344, e536.
- Stewart, K. (2006). Overview and Summary. In Drugs and Traffic: A Symposium (pp. 2–11). Woods Hole, United States.
- DRUID (Driving Under the Influence of Drugs, Alcohol and Medicines). (2012). Summary of Main DRUID Results. Paper presented at TRB 91st Annual Meeting. Washington, DC.
- Drummer O. (1995). Drugs and accident risk in fatally-injured drivers. Paper presented at the 17th International Conference on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety, Adelaide, Australia.
- Gjerde, H., Normann, P.T., Christophersen, A.S., Samuelsen, S.O., & Mørland, J. (2011). Alcohol, psychoactive drugs and fatal road traffic accidents in Norway: a case-control study. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 43(3), 1197–1203.
- Mura, P., Kintz, P., Ludes, B., Gaulier, J.M., Marquet, P., Martin-Dupont, S., … Pourrat, O., 2003. Comparison of the prevalence of alcohol, cannabis and other drugs between 900 injured drivers and 900 control subjects: results of a French collaborative study. Forensic Science International. 133(1–2), 79–85.
- Dassanayake, T., Michie, P. Carter, G., & Jones, A. (2011). Effects of benzodiazepines, antidepressants and opioids on driving: a systematic review and meta-analysis of epidemiological and experimental evidence drug safety. Drug Safety, 34(2), 125–156.