Parachute Canada draws a parallel between stoned skydiving and driving

The non-profit attempts to get teens to be more serious about getting behind the wheel while high.


Parachute Canada is issuing a caveat about the dangers of cannabis impairment as National Teen Driver Safety Week is in full swing.

The non-profit is dedicated to reducing the number of preventable injuries in Canada.

The organization’s latest ads, part of a two-year “Know What Impaired Means” campaign, depict potentially dangerous scenarios that are exacerbated by novices putting their lives in the hands of people impaired by cannabis. These include rock climbers and skydivers who are nervous about working with high instructors or partners, asking viewers why they would not feel similar apprehension about getting into a car with someone who was high.

Parachute’s VP of communications and marketing, Kelley Teahen, says the campaign is based on the insight that 50% of cannabis users feel it’s acceptable to get behind the wheel when they’ve consumed cannabis, a stat cited in the spots.

She tells strategy that 39% of Canadians who use cannabis have driven less than two hours after getting high, and that the organization wants to shift these numbers: “while people may think that they are driving ‘slow and careful’ when stoned, in fact their reaction times are greatly decreased and they are not fully in control of their vehicle, which can lead to collisions, serious injuries, and deaths.”

The forces lobbying for legalization did such a good job, Teahen says, that people have become empowered and given credence to the dangerous idea that cannabis is harmless.

parachute2“Know What Impaired Means,” she says, started as a small in-house campaign developed by Parachute staff and promoted mostly organically with social posts during the 2018 National Teen Driver Safety Week.

Campaign assets included an Instagrammable installation at the CNE in August, with letters within synonyms for the word “high” spelling out “impaired” when lit up.

Prior to these initiatives, Parachute created informative “myth versus reality” posts about cannabis on social, which Teahen says resulted in the organization getting “trounced” by cannabis users who claimed the group was scaremongering.

With a Health Canada project grant for the new effort, Teahen says the group was able to expand on “Know What Impaired Means” to develop a message that would zero-in on specific dangers, and resonate with both younger people and concerned parents.

Created by AOR Mass Minority, the campaign features mobile native ads created to stand out on social, targeted at the 16- to 24-year-old demo. Newad is running the campaign as a PSA, which works well without sound as well, Teahan says.

Parachute will also work with Mass Minority to develop a creative campaign in March 2020 during Poison Prevention Week, focusing on the dangers of edibles being inadvertently consumed by children.