Research Snapshot: The relationship between vehicle collisions and cigarette smoking in Ontario

What you need to know

In 2009, the Ontario government made it illegal to smoke in a vehicle when a child under the age of 16 years is present. Researchers examined vehicle collision rates for smokers and non-smokers before and after the legislation was passed. They found that collision rates were higher for smokers before the legislation passed; after the legislation passed, these rates were similar for smokers and non-smokers.

 

This Research Snapshot looks at the article, "The relationship between motor vehicle collisions and cigarette smoking in Ontario: Analysis of CAMH survey data from 2002 to 2016,” which was published in Preventive Medicine Reports in 2019. Read it below or download the PDF.

Research Snapshots are brief, clear language summaries of research articles, presented in a user-friendly format.

What is this research about? 

Most studies on drugs and driving have looked at the use of alcohol and cannabis. Yet, tobacco smoking in vehicles is a known risk factor for collisions.

In 2009, the Ontario government passed a law that protects children from secondhand smoke. It includes a ban on smoking in vehicles in the presence of a person who is younger than 16 years. The passing of this legislation offered an opportunity to explore its impact on collision rates in the province.

What did the researchers do?

The researchers analyzed responses to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Monitor survey. The survey involved conducting computer-assisted phone interviews with adults across Canada between 2002 and 2008 and between 2010 and 2016.

The researchers looked at survey responses about current smoking, driving exposure in a typical week and collision involvement in the previous year. In total, 21,903 individuals participated in the survey.

What did the researchers find?

The researchers found that more smokers than non-smokers reported being involved in a collision for the period before the legislation, while the rate of collision was similar for both groups after the legislation was implemented.

Limitations and next steps

These findings are subject to some possible bias. Self-reports about collisions may have been subject faulty recall. In addition, participants may not have been honest in their reports about collisions and/or about their smoking status.

Also, researchers did not ask smokers if they smoked in their car or in the presence of a child or adolescent, or whether they were smoking at the time of the collision. Participants were not asked about whether they knew about Ontario’s Secondhand Smoke legislation. These limitations could affect the findings of this study. The next steps would be to explore these factors. In-depth interviews could help clarify these limitations.

Finally, the researchers measured current smoking during a 30-day window, while collisions were measured during a 12-month window. For this reason, it is possible that a person might have been a smoker when they answered the survey, but a non-smoker when they had their collision.

How can you use this research?

This study provides support for policy-makers who are considering further legislation for road safety in Ontario.

About the researchers

Linda L. Pederson,1John Koval,2 Evelyn Vingilis,1 Jane Seeley,1 Anca R. Ialomiteanu,3 Christine M. Wickens,3 Roberta Ferrence,Robert E. Mann3

  1. Population & Community Health Unit, Family Medicine, Western University, Western Centre for Public Health and Family Medicine, London, Ontario, Canada
  2. Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Western University, London, Ontario , Canada
  3. Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario , Canada
  4. Ontario Tobacco Research Unit, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Keywords 

tobacco, cigarette, smoking, motor, vehicle, collision, accident

This Research Snapshot is based on the article, “The relationship between motor vehicle collisions and cigarette smoking in Ontario: Analysis of CAMH survey data from 2002 to 2016,” which was published in Preventive Medicine Reports in 2019. This summary was written by Maryan Warsame. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmedr.2018.12.013