In a safe system, no one deserves to be killed or seriously injured because they have made a mistake.
To achieve a safe system, it’s important to recognise that people are vulnerable and that we all make mistakes. The likelihood of making a mistake while driving is enhanced by substances which impair a driver’s reactions and cognitive processes. For instance, a Canadian study (external link) (published in the British Medical Journal (external link) in 2012) found drivers who use cannabis up to three hours before driving are twice as likely to cause a collision as those not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Driving after drug use is not uncommon — a recent NZ Drugs Foundation (external link) survey found that 70% of drug users report driving under the influence of cannabis or prescription stimulants. And research carried out by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (external link) also found 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.
Our drug-affected driving campaign is a long-term behavioural change campaign that aims to reduce the harm caused by drugged drivers. Stage one aimed to get the issue of drugged driving on the table and to generate conversations around drug use and driving. Stage two was based on a key insight from our target audience that when a person uses cannabis, they do things slower than usual.
Unlike drink driving, there is little stigma attached to drugged driving. The information is increasing, but we still know less about the effects of cannabis on driving than we do about alcohol.
Cannabis users don’t think they’re taking a risk when they get behind the wheel of a vehicle. They argue driving stoned is harmless — they’re a bit slow but they believe they can compensate by driving more slowly.
Our challenge is to flip this belief and get them to see that being stoned and a bit slower on the road is much more dangerous than they realise.
Our campaign continues to target people who use cannabis. It primarily focuses on guys in their early 30s who don’t think of themselves as ‘stoners’ but they smoke regularly with their mates to have a good time and then drive home.
They don’t consider this behaviour to be a road safety issue. They’re pretty relaxed about driving stoned — past experience has shown them how cannabis affects them and their driving — and they think they’ve got it under control.
A key secondary audience for this campaign is the broader driving public, where we aim to increase their intolerance for drug-impaired driving on our roads, as this behaviour puts us all at risk.
This campaign aims to make our audience feel uncomfortable about driving under the influence of cannabis. After all, things may feel slower for them but things can happen very quickly on the road. Even with their coping mechanisms, such as driving more slowly, they’re not alone on the road and anything can happen. A stoned driver might not be taking big risks or driving recklessly but they’re less likely to react to an unexpected event and be in an alert enough state to take evasive action.
We want these drivers to acknowledge that when they’re stoned, they’re slower to respond to the unexpected, and things can very quickly go wrong. Things may feel slower, and therefore safe, but they share the road with others and crashes happen fast.
We want drugged drivers to make a more conscious decision about whether they’re safe to drive.
The campaign launched on 21 February 2016.
For free confidential advice, information or support about your own or someone else’s drug use, contact the alcohol drug helpline 24/7 on 0800 787 797 or text 8681.