Despite increased awareness and education, drug-impaired driving is still on the rise.
Statistics Canada show that the number of people charged with drug-impaired driving in Canada rose from 183 in 2008 to 1,159 in 2013.*
Of great concern is the lack of social stigma associated with drug-impaired driving, particularly with young drivers.
Survey data from a 2013 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health report showed that, among young Ontario drivers in grades 10 – 12, 4% per cent admitted to driving after drinking alcohol and a shocking 9.7% drove after smoking cannabis.
The biggest challenged faced by law enforcement when fighting drug-impaired driving is accurate roadside testing.
With alcohol, field sobriety test and a roadside breathalyzer can be administered to quickly determine intoxication. For drugs, considerations must include:
- Drug recognition evaluation (roadside test)
- What kind of drug
- At what level is deemed to be impairment
Currently the only accurate measure of drug impairment is blood alcohol analysis, which cannot be administered roadside. Due to the complications of testing, some groups feel that many impaired drivers weren’t tested unless involved in an accident.
What can be done?
The Canadian Society of Forensic Science’s Drugs and Driving Committee is conducting a study for oral fluid level testing to determine feasibility with roadside testing.
Britain is a leader in the battle against impaired driving. It has legislated 16 drugs and their corresponding levels constituting impairment, and roadside testing will soon begin.
For these options to be adopted by Canada, it would require amendments in the Criminal Code.
Impaired driving, whether alcohol or drug related, is entirely preventable. Please do your part and speak with loved ones about the dangers and implications of impaired driving.
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To learn more about drug-impaired driving, please visit the MADD website.