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Campaign highlights dangers of "dope driving"

Dope smokers often believe they drive better after a joint Keystone

The Swiss authorities have launched a campaign to raise awareness of the risks of driving under the influence of cannabis.

This content was published on June 8, 2004 - 11:51

The warning comes as more and more motorists in Switzerland are testing positive for the drug.

“Over the past few years there has been a significant rise in the number of road offenders who have consumed cannabis,” said Hans-Ulrich Büschi, president of the Road Safety Council.

Büschi said latest statistics from the universities of Zurich, Bern and Lausanne showed a 20 per cent annual increase in the number of blood and urine tests revealing the presence of cannabis.

“There are also accidents related to cannabis consumption. What is fatal – and it unfortunately occurs often – is the combination of cannabis and alcohol,” Büschi told swissinfo.

It is believed that around 600,000 people in Switzerland regularly or occasionally smoke a joint.

Myths

The council said its campaign – the first of its kind in Switzerland – aimed to counter what experts call “half-truths”, including the theory that cannabis makes drivers more focused and less aggressive.

“It is a fact that stoned drivers are caught speeding more often,” it said. “The brain of a dope smoker cannot cope with what is going on around them [while driving].”

But Büschi was keen to stress that his organisation was not taking sides in the ongoing debate in Switzerland over decriminalising cannabis.

“We are not taking the moral high ground, and it is not about pointing the finger at anybody,” he said.

“All we want to do is to raise awareness, mainly among cannabis consumers. But we are also targeting parents of young dope smokers, teachers and other people.”

The move comes ahead of a ban on driving under the influence of drugs, which is due to come into force at the beginning of next year.

Alcohol

The Road Safety Council says it wants the public to view dope driving and drink driving as equally dangerous.

It hopes to make driving with a certain level of Tetrahydrocannabiol (THC), the intoxicating substance in cannabis, socially unacceptable within the next ten years.

The safety message will be broadcast on TV and cinema screens, and can also be found on a special internet site: www.die-wahrheit.ch.

The campaign, which runs until the end of summer, also includes teaching material for schools.

The council says it has already received requests from driving instructors in Switzerland asking for specific material for their courses.

An international conference is being organised for driving instructors on July 5 in Bern, when the latest findings on research about the effects of cannabis on drivers will be presented.

swissinfo, Renat Künzi

Key facts

An estimated 600,000 people in Switzerland regularly or occasionally smoke cannabis.
Experts say the number of drivers who have traces of cannabis in their blood or urine has increased by 20 per cent every year.
In western Switzerland in 2002 and 2003, cannabis showed up in the blood of more than half the 440 drivers tested.
At the beginning of next year a ban will come into force on driving under the influence of cannabis on Swiss roads.
Parliament this month continues a debate on decriminalising cannabis.

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In brief

The authorities have launched their first campaign to crack down on driving under the influence of cannabis.

It is aimed at young cannabis consumers, their parents and teachers.

Leaflets and audio-visual material has been prepared for schools and driving instructors.

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