Scientific basis for laws on marijuana, driving questioned

By Joan Lowy


WASHINGTON _ Motorists are being convicted of driving under the influence of marijuana based on arbitrary state standards that have no connection to whether the driver was actually impaired, says a study by the nation’s largest auto club.

The problem is only growing as more states contemplate legalizing the drug. At least three, and possibly as many as 11 states, will vote this fall on ballot measures to legalize marijuana for medicinal or recreational use, or both. Legislation to legalize the drug has also been introduced in a half dozen states.

Currently, six states Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington have set specific limits for THC, the chemical in marijuana that makes people high, in drivers’ blood. Marijuana use is legal in those states for either recreational or medicinal purposes, with the exception of Ohio. The laws presume a driver whose THC level exceeds the threshold is impaired. But the study by AAA’s safety foundation says the limits have no scientific basis and can result in innocent drivers being convicted, and in guilty drivers being released.

“There is understandably a strong desire by both lawmakers and the public to create legal limits for marijuana impairment in the same manner we do alcohol,” said Marshall Doney, AAA’s president and CEO. “In the case of marijuana, this approach is flawed and not supported by scientific research.”

Another nine states, including some that have legalized marijuana for medical use, have zero-tolerance laws for driving and marijuana that make not only any presence of THC in a driver’s blood illegal, but also the presence of its metabolites, which can linger in a driver’s bloodstream for weeks after any impairment has dissipated.

That makes no sense, said Mark A. R. Kleiman, a New York University professor specializing in issues involving drugs and criminal policy. “A law against driving with THC in your bloodstream is not a law you can know you are obeying except by never smoking marijuana or never driving,” he said.

The problem is that determining whether someone is impaired by marijuana, as opposed to having merely used the drug, is far more complex than the simple and reliable tests that have been developed for alcohol impairment.

The degree to which a driver is impaired by marijuana use depends a lot on the individual, the foundation said. Drivers with relatively high levels of THC in their systems might not be impaired, especially if they are regular users, while others with relatively low levels may be unsafe behind the wheel.

Some drivers may be impaired when they are stopped by police, but by the time their blood is tested they have fallen below the legal threshold because active THC dissipates rapidly. The average time to collect blood from a suspected driver is often more than two hours because taking a blood sample typically requires a warrant and transport to a police station or hospital, the foundation said.

In addition, frequent marijuana users can exhibit persistent levels of the drug long after use, while THC levels can decline more rapidly among occasional users.

Colorado’s 5-nanogram limit for THC in blood “was picked out of thin air by politicians,” said Robert Corry, a Denver criminal defence attorney.  “Innocent people are convicted of DUI because of this.”

Melanie Brinegar, who uses marijuana every day to control back pain, was stopped by police two years ago for having an expired license plate. The officer smelled marijuana and Brinegar acknowledged she had used the drug earlier in the day. Her blood test showed a level of 19 nanograms, well over the state limit. She was arrested and charged with driving while impaired.

Brinegar, 30, who lives in Denver, said she spent the next 13 months working 80 to 90 hours a week to pay for a lawyer to help her fight the charge and eventually was acquitted. People like herself will always test positive for THC whether they are high or not because of their frequent use, she said.

“It took a good amount of my time and my life,” she said. “There is still that worry if I get pulled over (again).”

Studies show that using marijuana and driving roughly doubles the risk of a crash, Kleiman said. By comparison, talking on a hands-free cellphone while driving _ legal in all states _ quadruples crash risk, he said. A blood alcohol content of .12, which is about the median amount in drunken driving cases, increases crash risk by about 15 times, he said.

Driving with “a noisy child in the back of the car” is about as dangerous as using marijuana and driving, Kleiman said.

The exception is when a driver has both been using marijuana and drinking alcohol because the two substances together greatly heighten impairment, he said.


FCA recalls 187,000 Dodge Journey vehicles to fix possible power steering problem

TORONTO _ Fiat Chrysler Automobiles says it is voluntarily recalling 187,436 vehicles in Canada to fix a problem involving a possible leak of power-steering fluid in extreme cold-weather conditions.

FCA says the problem affects certain model-year 2009-2016 Dodge Journey vehicles in this country as well as well as almost 11,000 U.S.-market vehicles equipped with optional block heaters.

The issue became widely known late last month when Transport Canada said an investigation had uncovered a “serious safety issue”’ involving the power steering systems on more than 295,000 FCA vehicles.

Most involved more than 187,000 Dodge Journeys, but Transport Canada also included three other models totalling 108,000 vehicles because they had similar technical issues.

FCA did not mention those models the 2011-2013 Chrysler 200, the 2007-2010 Chrysler Sebring and the 2007-2013 Dodge Avenger in its recall announcement. However, in an email response to a query, it said that according to its data the vehicle being recalled “is the only one subject to this issue.”

FCA says replacement parts are expected to become available soon and that customers will be notified accordingly.

In a posting on its website in late April, Transport Canada said FCA had found that power steering return hoses could fail in extremely cold climates, causing a hydraulic fluid leak “in close proximity to the exhaust system” and loss of power steering.

FCA said an investigation found that some lines carrying power-steering fluid may leak under such conditions at engine start-up.

Steering is not lost in such circumstances, but the amount of physical effort required to steer may increase, it said.

Transport Canada said it had received 107 consumer complaints about the problem and was aware of two cases where drivers allegedly lost control and three others where smoke was observed.

However, the department said it was not aware of any serious injuries or fatalities related to the problem.

FCA said Friday that it was also unaware of any injuries or fatalities linked to the problem.


As car insurance costs drop, benefits being cut

As of June 1, a new car insurance policy in Ontario will provide less coverage as a result of an accident. It you want more, you’ll have to pay.


Car insurance premiums have come down in Ontario this year, but less welcome is that you’re going to have less coverage in a standard policy if you get into an accident.

It’s the tradeoff of the Ontario Liberal’s have made as part of their unfulfilled promise to push auto insurance rates down. Yes, rates are slowly coming down, but to pay for it, insurers are being allowed to reduce the amount they pay you for accident benefits.

It’s another piece of the Liberal pledge made two years ago when they were a minority government and picked up as a campaign promise in the election that gave them a majority. They said they would reduce the cost of insuring a car in Ontario by 15 per cent by August, 2015.

We’re still waiting. Nine months after that deadline has passed we’re two-thirds of the way there at the 10 per cent mark.

The Liberals get credit for legislation in the past two years that may help eventually reach the goal. They’ve cracked down on insurance fraud and accelerated the process to settle disputed accident claims. There is more oversight of clinics that offer rehab services.

The latest push takes effect on June 1 and affects any policy renewed thereafter. It reduces the maximum benefit insurers must pay for accidents, including medical treatments, rehab services and attendant care. Insurers have long argued that Ontario’s payment schedule is the most generous in Canada and contributes to our higher insurance costs.

How high are our car insurance costs? The average GTA driver pays $2,203 a year to insure a car, according to the latest figures from the Insurance Bureau of Canada. The average in the Maritimes is $773 and in Quebec $693.

The June 1 changes mean your insurer is on the hook for less in accident benefits so policy costs can drop a bit. If you want to keep the current coverage, you can do so by paying for optional coverage.


Georgia Rescinds International Driving Permit Requirement

QUEBEC CITY, Georgia has abolished its legal requirement for non-residents holding a driver’s licence written in a language other than English to be in possession of an International Driving Permit (IDP) when driving in or through the state. CAA-Quebec applauds this successful outcome, which favours thousands of Quebecers who pass through Georgia every year on their way to vacations in the southern United States. As of January 1, 2017, they will need to show only their passport and Quebec driver’s licence if asked.

This decision comes in the wake of sustained efforts by various authorities and organizations—including CAA-Quebec, the national office of the CAA, and the American Automobile Association (AAA) Auto Club Group—with authorities in the State of Georgia to have the requirement revoked.

“This legal requirement attracted a fair amount of media coverage when rumours began circulating of tickets and hefty fines levied against Quebec motorists simply because their driver’s licence was in French only,” explains Sophie Gagnon, CAA-Quebec’s Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs. “Although we could not find proof that the measure was ever enforced on that basis, our U.S. partner at the AAA defended the interests of Quebec drivers and helped ensure implementation of a fair solution.”

Support from partners
With the situation now resolved, CAA-Quebec also acknowledges the indispensable support provided by the Ministry of International Relations and La Francophonie as well as the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ).

Don’t forget the IDP for other destinations
CAA-Quebec reminds travellers that an IDP is still a requirement in certain countries. If they are planning on driving outside Canada, they should check first with a travel counsellor.

The IDP is an official translation, in 10 or so languages, of a Quebec driver’s licence. Where needed, it can help with communication, for example, if a driver is stopped by police in a location where officers do not understand French. Lastly, the CAA is the sole Canadian agent authorized to issue the IDP. In Quebec, it is available from any of CAA-Quebec’s 14 Travel Centres, or via the organization’s website,

About CAA-Quebec
CAA-Quebec, a not-for-profit organization, provides all of its members with peace of mind by offering them high-quality automotive, travel, residential and insurance benefits, products and services.



For further information: Philippe St-Pierre, Director, Public Affairs, 514 861-7111, ext. 2418, Cell.: 418-580-1633,

Aviva Canada has developed an insurance solution for Quebec ride-sharing drivers


Responding to the growing trend of ride-sharing services and the need to protect both passengers and drivers, Aviva Canada – one of the country’s leading providers of home, automobile, leisure/lifestyle and business insurance – is pleased to have developed an affordable and convenient insurance product that would bridge the insurance gap in Quebec, if the government decides to allow ride-sharing programs. Unlike carpooling, ride-sharing drivers and passengers are not covered by their personal automobile insurance policy in case of a claim.

Earlier this year, Aviva Canada made ride-sharing insurance coverage available in the province of Ontario and filed for regulatory approval in Alberta.

“We have developed a simple and affordable product designed for Quebec drivers and passengers that will give them absolute peace of mind while ride-sharing, if the government goes ahead with a dual regulation regime and pending regulatory approval,” said Martin-Eric Tremblay, Senior Vice President for Quebec and Atlantic Canada for Aviva Canada. “We’re thrilled to be providing innovative insurance solutions that meet the ever-changing needs of Quebec consumers.”

The coverage is independent of ride-sharing facilitators and is a simple addition to an Aviva-insured personal auto policy. It would become available for Quebec drivers with the required approval of the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF). Ride-sharing drivers (such as those contracted with UberX and the like) will be protected from the moment they initiate looking for passengers through to collecting and dropping off those passengers. Eligibility for coverage will be based on some simple underwriting criteria (e.g., maximum of eight passengers, licensed for a minimum of six years, no other commercial use, etc.).

This coverage will be available for drivers that spend up to 20 hours a week participating in ride-sharing. The cost for the additional coverage will be calculated using factors such as time spent ride-sharing, area driven and driving record.

To be clear, Aviva Canada does not endorse Uber, or any other specific ride-sharing program. Aviva takes no position on the regulatory or public policy questions raised by ride-sharing, which are best left to elected government officials. It is Aviva’s view that regulation needs to work for consumers and respect the need to evolve in their best interests as innovation brings the need for new products.  As an industry leader, Aviva Canada will continue to proactively address gaps in insurance coverage that potentially leaves ride-sharing drivers and passengers without appropriate protection and benefits in Quebec.

About Aviva Canada
Aviva Canada is one of the leading property and casualty insurance groups in the country providing home, automobile, leisure/lifestyle and business insurance to more than three million customers. A wholly-owned subsidiary of UK-based Aviva plc, the company has more than 3,500 employees, 25 locations across Canada and approximately 1,500 independent broker partners.

Aviva Canada invests in positive change through the Aviva Community Fund, Canada’s longest running online community funding competition. Since its inception in 2009, the Aviva Community Fund has awarded $6.5 million to over 222 charities and community groups nationwide.

For more information visit

SOURCE Aviva Canada Inc.

Multi-billion pound motor insurance industry faces radical restructuring due to autonomous cars

Multi-billion pound motor insurance industry faces radical restructuring due to autonomous cars

Source: Automotive World

The multi-billion pound motor insurance industry faces a period of radical restructuring as a result of the advent of autonomously driving cars, with the number of crashes set to drop by 80 per cent by 2035* and insurance premiums set to plummet, a high level panel discussion organized by Volvo Cars and Thatcham Research will hear today.

Research by Swiss Re and HERE** released earlier this month calculated that AD technologies could wipe USD20bn off insurance premiums globally by 2020 alone. At present, motor insurance generates 42 per cent of all non life gross premiums, the largest single slice of global premiums.**

Volvo Cars believes that the insurance industry will have no choice but to react to these seismic challenges to its existing business model.

“The medium to long term impact on the insurance industry is likely to be significant. But let’s not forget the real reason for this – fewer accidents, fewer injuries, fewer fatalities. Autonomous drive technology is the single most important advance in automotive safety to be seen in recent years,” Hakan Samuelsson, president and chief executive will tell a seminar to be held later today in London entitled ‘A Future with Autonomous Driving Cars – Implications for the Insurance Industry’.

Peter Shaw, chief executive at Thatcham Research, said: “Vehicle manufacturers are predicting that highly autonomous vehicles, capable of allowing the driver to drop ‘out of the loop’ for certain sections of their journey, will be available from around 2021. Without doubt, crash frequency will also dramatically reduce. We’ve already seen this with the adoption of Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) on many new cars. Research in the US by NHTSA predicts that by 2035, as a result of autonomous and connected cars, crashes will be reduced by 80 per cent. Additionally, if a crash unfortunately can’t be avoided, then the impact speed will also drop as a result of the system’s performance – reducing the severity of the crash.”

Volvo Cars is fully committed to maximizing the safety benefits of AD cars. It announced last week that it will start the UK’s most extensive AD trial entitled Drive Me UK in 2017, with up to 100 AD cars being driven on real roads by real people, part of its global plush to develop AD cars with similar programmes to be run in Sweden and China.

“The automotive industry cannot do this on its own,” Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo’s chief executive, will tell the gathered audience. “We need the government’s help. It is essential that carmakers work with the government to put in place laws and regulations that allow us to get these cars on the road as soon as possible and start saving lives.”

Sajid Javid, UK Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills said: “Driverless cars will see our journeys become faster, cleaner and safer. The UK is leading the way in developing the technology needed to make this a reality thanks to our world-class research base and these types of trials will become increasingly common.

“Such advances in technology prove the fourth industrial revolution is just around the corner and our determination to be at the forefront is why we are attracting top names from across the globe for real-world testing.”

Mr Samuelsson will say that he looks forward to working with the UK government to ensure that this technology can be introduced as soon as possible.

“The advent of autonomous driving represents a revolution for automotive safety,” Mr Samuelsson will say. “Volvo has a vision that no one will be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo by 2020. Autonomous drive technology is a key tool in helping us achieve this aim.”


* Research in the US by NHTSA

** “The future of motor insurance – How in-car connectivity and ADAS are impacting the market”, Swiss Re/HERE, 2016 – Link to report

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