Fri | Sep 22, 2017

High drivers - ganja smoking increases among motorists

Published:Tuesday | January 17, 2017 | 1:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin

One in six males admitted to driving under the influence of some sort of dangerous substance, while one in 17 females did the same, according to a new survey, which stakeholders believe is putting people's lives in extreme danger. Many admitted to using ganja, in light of the recent decriminalisation of two ounces.

Pointing to data in the recently released 2016 National Drug Prevalence Survey, Michael Tucker, executive director at the National Council on Drug Abuse, is expressing serious concerns with the findings.

"This is very troubling, as potentially these persons are not only a harm to themselves, but to other users of the road. Many times they might be carrying passengers, including children," he told The Gleaner.

The survey was conducted to determine the prevalence and patterns of substance use among the population ages 12-65 years, as well as to measure other issues like access and availability of drugs, perception of risk of using various drugs, attitudes towards ganja decriminalisation, need for drug treatment because of problematic substance, among other issues.

In analysing the data, which were collected in April to July of 2016 among 4,623 persons residing in households across Jamaica, Tucker said that oftentimes vulnerable groups such as children are at great risk of losing their lives because they are among high-risk road users.

"When we look at those persons who operate minibuses and carry many people at the same time, that also can be worrying. We don't want to raise any alarm on a particular group of persons, but if you look at the population, I would assume that a reasonable number of them (respondents) would have come from that group (bus drivers)."

 

CURB INDISCIPLINE

 

Dr Lucien Jones, vice-chairman of the National Road Safety Council, admitted that he was concerned about the data, at the same time emphasising the need for indiscipline to be urgently addressed.

"The police data show that just below speeding and overtaking comes distracted driving as the main cause for crashes. Distracted driving can be caused by many things, including the use of mind-altering substances," he declared.

"It goes back to the basic problem we have on the road, which is indiscipline. It's a mindset which we are definitely trying to change. So it's one other issue, apart from just driving recklessly on the road. It's a major concern for us that people don't understand the problems which are associated with drug use."

Jones continued, "A number of things would have to happen, including the passage of the Road Traffic Act. When that happens, it would affect a number of things and we can achieve our target (of below 300 deaths on the road per year). The Island Traffic Authority would have the power to automatically suspend license when people have exceeded their demerit points."

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com