MPI prepares for cannabis legalization with large education campaign

Manitoba Public Insurance announced a new public education campaign against drug-impaired driving on Thursday, with a focus on impairment by cannabis ahead of the expected legalization of that drug next year.

The campaign, launched in cooperation with Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada, will include messaging focused on new teen drivers, youth in general, the medical community, and the general public, with taglines such as “Think you’re a better driver when you’re high? Think again.”

MPI vice-president and chief administrative officer Ward Keith said the campaign was developed in response to “a number of things that are lining up to give us real concerns about the risk of cannabis-impaired driving” after legalization.

“Our concern is that, through the surveys that we did in the fall, we know that there is significant drug use among Manitoba drivers. In our view, those are accidents, collisions waiting to happen,” said Keith, speaking at a press conference alongside Premier Brian Pallister, Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen, and MADD Canada CEO Andrew Murie.

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Manitoba Public Insurance announced a new public education campaign against drug-impaired driving on Thursday, with a focus on impairment by cannabis ahead of the expected legalization of that drug next year.

The campaign, launched in cooperation with Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada, will include messaging focused on new teen drivers, youth in general, the medical community, and the general public, with taglines such as “Think you’re a better driver when you’re high? Think again.”

MPI vice-president and chief administrative officer Ward Keith said the campaign was developed in response to “a number of things that are lining up to give us real concerns about the risk of cannabis-impaired driving” after legalization.

“Our concern is that, through the surveys that we did in the fall, we know that there is significant drug use among Manitoba drivers. In our view, those are accidents, collisions waiting to happen,” said Keith, speaking at a press conference alongside Premier Brian Pallister, Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen, and MADD Canada CEO Andrew Murie.

Keith was referring to a voluntary roadside survey conducted by MPI in 2016, in which 1,230 drivers submitted breath and saliva samples for analysis. Ten per cent of those drivers tested positive for drugs, of which 53 per cent tested positive for cannabis. The MPI survey did not establish whether drivers who tested positive for drugs were impaired while they were driving.

The survey, said Keith, revealed “significant misconceptions about how cannabis can affect driving” among Manitoba drivers, which the new campaign is designed to counter.

“Thoughts, particularly from young drivers, about how cannabis use can actually improve driving ability because you’re more focused and you’re and more concentrated — completely, completely unreasonable based on the empirical evidence.”

Manitobans will receive MPI’s new messaging through radio, television, billboards, newspapers, and theatres, as well as at school assemblies and through driver’s education courses for high school students. Social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube will also be used to spread the message, Keith said.

The campaign will also include messaging around prescription drug use, including medical marijuana.

“We’re going to do this in partnership with the medical community in Manitoba, to encourage physicians to continue having conversations with their patients about how prescription medications can affect concentration, reaction time, and driving focus, all of which increase the risk of being involved in a collision,” said Keith.

At the press conference, Premier Brian Pallister described road safety and enforcement as “a leading area of concern” for his government as cannabis legalization approaches. An online survey launched by the provincial government on Wednesday as part of its pre-budget consultations includes questions about cannabis legalization.

“Educating our youth, new, and current drivers is imperative if we hope to change peoples’ attitudes, behaviours, and the misconceptions around the use of marijuana while driving,” said Pallister.

“As we worked for decades, and will continue to do so, to change the attitude towards drinking and driving, now we must do the same in advance of the legalization of cannabis.”

solomon.israel@freepress.mb.ca

@sol_israel

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