Drug Impaired Driving

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Drug impaired driving is becoming a bigger problem, and police in Ontario don’t have the tools they need to catch many offenders at the roadside. With the pending legalization of recreational marijuana use we should all be concerned.

Ottawa and the provinces need to establish impairment levels for all drugs, and particularly for Marijuana as it will soon be legal to use in Canada. They also need to examine the limits for ‘combined’ impairment. For example, how high a blood alcohol level AND marijuana drug levels combined to determine impairment. Presumably, the combination of two lower levels of impairment can create and overall impairment that is higher than legal. There may not be a linear increase in impairment either.

In order to get impaired drivers off the road we require roadside tests for drugs, as we already have for alcohol. Police are currently testing various drug breathalyzers in the Province of Ontario, but any approvals for wide spread use still seem to be a way off. Without establishing legal limits for impairment there doesn’t seem to be much use in having the testing devices.

 “The government is keenly aware of the significant impact of impaired driving, including drug-impaired driving, has for safety on our roads and highways”,  said Ian McLeod, Dept of Justice Canada.

Currently police use visual tools to determine impairment. The officers examine eye movement, pupil dilation, physical dexterity and blood pressure to determine sobriety. This is time consumptive and often doesn’t stand up in court of law.

Complicating factors for establishing limits are that drugs impact people in different ways, and what may be a cause of impairment for one person, may not be for another. Combining drugs also changes impairment levels.

Clearly the government needs to begin sooner than later to prepare for the legalization of marijuana. Perhaps zero is good limit to place on drug impairment. Whatever the limits established we need to give the enforcement tools to the officers in the field, and to have strict enforcement of the laws.