Drug driving is a serious road safety issue. ESR research shows that around one-quarter of all drivers and motorcyclists killed in road crashes were found to have cannabis present in their system, with or without other substances. Their research also shows cannabis to be the second most common drug found in blood samples of deceased drivers. The first is alcohol.
Our drug affected driving campaign is a long-term behavioural change campaign aimed at reducing the harm caused by drugged drivers. Driving under the influence of drugs is common and widespread.
Conversations generated by stage one of our campaign showed us that the main drug people admit to using and then driving under the influence of is cannabis. Results from our national poll showed that 56% of respondents thought drug driving was a problem and 32% said it was safe to smoke cannabis and then drive.
This next stage of the drug impaired driving campaign will focus specifically on those who use cannabis.
In comparison to drink-driving, less is known about the extent of drugged-driving in New Zealand and the impact it has on road safety. A lack of empirical New Zealand research exists. However, some evidence suggests that drugs may be a bigger factor in crashes than officially reported.
Drug driving is a complex issue. Unlike drink driving, safe limits cannot be established and it is difficult to enforce. Because cannabis is also an illegal drug, it is unregulated. All of these issues make it difficult to target people who use cannabis and drive.
The target audience
The new campaign targets people in their thirties and forties who use cannabis. This group tells us they believe they're okay to drive after using cannabis. In all other respects of their life, they don't take risks and consider themselves to be 'sensible stoners' who enjoy using cannabis on a regular basis as opposed to people who use greater amounts of cannabis more frequently.
Their own experience tells them that they're okay to drive after using cannabis. Some think the drug has little effect on their driving. They even believe that the drug makes them a safer driver as they feel more focused and drive slower when under the influence. They have never considered their behaviour to be a road safety issue.
Research from the last New Zealand Alcohol and Drug Use Survey found that Maori men and women were over 50 percent more likely to have used cannabis in the previous year than men and women in the general population. So while this campaign is targeting a broad New Zealand audience, it will also specifically be targeting Maori through a separate TV ad and programme integration deliberately developed for Maori, via Maori TV.
The campaign builds on what we learned in stage one. It is based on a key insight from our target audience that when a person uses cannabis, they do things slower than usual. We want them to apply this to a driving scenario and acknowledge that:
- their reaction time is slower
- they have less ability to react quickly should the unexpected occur.
Ultimately we want them to make the link and start to question their own behaviour behind the wheel.
Our approach uses 'experts' from within the community to get our message across. These 'experts' have regular contact with our 'sensible stoners'; they are people such as dairy owners, fish and chip shop workers and the children of our target audience. These 'experts' provide observational insights that aim to get our drugged-drivers to acknowledge that cannabis slows them down.
At this stage of the campaign, we want our audience to simply acknowledge this and start to question the safety of their driving when their ability to react may not be as fast as it could be.
This campaign launched on 18 August 2013 with media that has been targeted at specific television channels and shows, cinema and online sites that are popular with people in their thirties and forties.