New ad campaign targets 'sensible stoners' behind the wheel 


New road safety advertisements hitting screens this Sunday night (18 August) will be the first in New Zealand to directly target cannabis users who drive under the influence.

The NZ Transport Agency ads target drivers in their 30's and 40's who think it's ok to drive after using cannabis.

"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. 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," said Transport Agency Road Safety Director Ernst Zollner.
International evidence shows that drivers under the influence of cannabis are more likely to cause car crashes, and the more cannabis you smoke, the worse your driving is. Cannabis can make you feel like you’re in control of the way the drug is affecting you, but this feeling of caution wears off well before the effects of cannabis on your driving.

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, and 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. 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," Mr Zollner said.

The new ads mark the second stage in a long-term Transport Agency campaign aimed at challenging misconceptions about drugged-driving, as part of the Government's Safer Journeys strategy which identifies reducing alcohol and drug impaired driving as a high priority.

Stage one of the campaign launched in January 2012, using real footage captured by hidden cameras to reveal the unscripted responses of ordinary New Zealanders when faced with the situation of being an unwitting passenger in a car driven by someone under the influence of drugs, and urging people to provide their views on drugged-driving. Feedback showed that 56% of respondents to our national poll thought drug-driving was a problem and 32% of all drivers considered it safe to use cannabis then drive.

The new ads use 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. These experts provide observations and insights which aim 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.

The new ads launch this Sunday (August 18) on TV, in cinemas and online.

Driving stoned - the facts*

  • Two-thirds of cannabis users admit to driving under the influence of drugs.
  • Over half (58%) of all New Zealand drivers under the influence of cannabis think that being stoned makes no difference to their driving ability.
  • Nearly half of the drivers killed on New Zealand roads are impaired by alcohol, other drugs, or both. Of these deceased drivers, a fifth had used cannabis and over a quarter had used a combination of alcohol and cannabis
  • Cannabis is the most commonly detected substance in drivers involved in crashes after alcohol.
  • Results of a study (carried out by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd over 2004-2009) of the blood of deceased drivers showed that 30 percent of drivers had used cannabis with or without alcohol or other drugs.
  • Between 2004 and 2009, 96 drivers killed on New Zealand roads had cannabis (with no other substances) in their system.
  • Three-quarters of drivers killed in crashes while under the influence of cannabis caused the crash that killed them.  

* Source: link)