You are here
Home > News > New Report Recommends Tips for Successful Cannabis-Impaired Driving Campaigns

New Report Recommends Tips for Successful Cannabis-Impaired Driving Campaigns

Governors Highway Safety Association ordered a report on education campaigns about cannabis and driving. It was published on July 26. National Alliance to Stop Impaired Driving and the GHSA teamed up to produce a playbook specifically designed for State Highway Safety Offices.

Governors Highway Safety Association’s Executive Director, Jonathan Adkins, explained the need for a playbook that is up to date regarding cannabis legalization, overall acceptance of cannabis by consumers, and more. “As legal cannabis use becomes more widespread in the U.S., motorists need to know the dangers of driving under the influence,” said Adkins. “But that message won’t be heard if it’s outdated, irrelevant or insulting to cannabis consumers. This new report offers a playbook to help states develop messaging that resonates with cannabis users and prompts them to refrain from driving for their own safety and the safety of everyone else on the road.”

The report, called “Cannabis Consumers and Safe Driving: Responsible Use Messaging,” is based on a variety of surveys and interviews, and expands upon an unpublished 2021 Cannabis Regulators Association white paper with “additional strategies and recommendations about promising practices that can enhance safety partnerships and increase the effectiveness of outreach and education on cannabis use and driving.”

A report shows that approximately 21% (or more) of the drivers in fatal crashes were carrying THC. This percentage was 33% during the pandemic. (In comparison, only 29% of those with alcohol in their system were involved in fatal vehicle crashes). AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Culture Index conducted a survey to determine how drivers see impairment from alcohol and cannabis. When asked about driving while under the influence of alcohol, 95% of people believed it was “very or extremely dangerous.” When asked the same question about cannabis, only 69% responded with the same answer.

According to the GHSA, education and training are key for promoting safety driving and enforced driving. The report reviewed the educational programs that were implemented in Colorado, Washington and other states. It also addressed current education efforts that learn from those earlier campaigns, such as the “simple, non-judgmental” messages in Connecticut that have been promoted on social media channels, radio, TV, billboards, bus panels, and printed materials. While cannabis became legal in Connecticut on July 1, 2021, retail sales won’t begin until later this year. The report does however examine an education campaign that was launched in Wyoming where marijuana is still illegal.

After reviewing the content, the report addresses “promising practices” that the authors view as useful for developing education campaigns, such as partnering with cannabis industry groups, receiving dedicated funding, and using specific wording in campaign messages.

In more detail, the report’s five main recommendations explore campaign success based on the presented examples.

The first is that funds should be generated from sales taxes on cannabis and partnered with local legislators. The second recommendation is to partner with many cannabis groups, with the common goal being consumer safety. “Working together, collaborative education campaigns can reflect the desires of all partners to help keep cannabis consumers safe,” the report explained.

The report explained, thirdly, how important it was to have campaign messengers. Government leaders and institutions are “generally not good choices,” so it’s essential to choose respected individuals who are a part of the cannabis community to get the point across. The specific words chosen for a campaign can also lend to its success and maintain credibility, such as avoiding archaic terms such as pot or weed, or using “consumer” instead of “user.”

According to the report, a campaign message must be chosen with love and respect. “Insulting or judging the target audience rarely improves message reception and turns people off, resulting in the message getting lost. Not driving after using cannabis should be the primary focus of informational campaigns, not the use of cannabis itself,” the report explains. “Messaging that appeals to the risks versus rewards of driving after consuming cannabis can be effective with the target audience, which tends to be young and male. Because it is not clear what responsible use of cannabis really is or looks like, appeals to moral sensitivity—normative choices that are considered ‘good’ or ‘right’—may have a greater effect on changing behavior than the usual ‘just don’t do it’ messaging.”