Oakville, Ontario, May 29, 2014 – Canada’s current system for detecting drug-impaired drivers is not working and changes need to be made. That’s the message a small group of MADD Canada representatives will be sharing as they visit with select Members of Parliament today.
Population and roadside surveys show the number of Canadians driving after using drugs is on the rise. In fact, driving after smoking cannabis is now more prevalent among some younger drivers than driving after drinking. 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 drove after drinking while 9.7% drove after smoking cannabis.
“Drug-impaired driving has become a much larger part of the overall impaired driving in problem in Canada over the past several years,” said MADD Canada National President Angeliki Souranis. “But when we look at the impaired driving charges laid, just a small fraction are for drug-impairment.”
In 2012, just 1.9% of the total impaired driving charges laid were for drug impairment. That is just 1,126 charges out of nearly 60,000 total charges.
“Clearly, Canada needs a more effective system for detecting drivers who are impaired by drugs,” Ms. Souranis said.
Police currently have the authority to demand physical coordination tests (Standard Field Sobriety Test and Drug Recognition Evaluations) if they suspect drug impairment in a driver. But the process requires expensive specialized training, is time-consuming and results in few charges. Further, the results are not always accepted in court as proof of driver impairment.
As MADD Canada is sharing with MPs today, an improved system of drug-impaired driving detection is required, and it should be based on roadside screening tests for suspected impaired drivers and the establishment of a set of drug level limits for drivers. Such a system would require two major changes:
- First, there must be an oral fluid test available for use at roadside, similar to the breathalyzer test that screens for alcohol. Such tests are currently being used in other countries. The federal Department of Justice and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation are currently funding a study to look at the efficacy and accuracy of these tests and their potential use in Canada.
- Second, officials and policy makers must establish ‘per se’ laws that set limits for the most common illicit drugs. These would be the levels at which impaired driving charges would be laid, similar to the .08% BAC legal limit set for alcohol. The same study examining oral fluid testing will be making recommendations on ‘per se’ limits for various drugs.
“We hope to share this information with elected officials today so they are aware of the limitations within the current system, and the crucial need for a new approach,” Ms. Souranis said. “The data tells us that the average user would have to make 550 trips after using marijuana before being charged once. We need to change that because impaired driving, whether it’s by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two, puts everyone at risk.”
About MADD Canada
MADD Canada (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) is a national, charitable organization that is committed to stopping impaired driving and supporting the victims of this violent crime. With volunteer-driven groups in more than 100 communities across Canada, MADD Canada aims to offer support services to victims, heighten awareness of the dangers of impaired driving and save lives and prevent injuries on our roads.
For more information, contact:
Angeliki Souranis, National President, 514-515-6233 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew Murie, Chief Executive Officer, 416-720-7642 or email@example.com
Deb Kelly, Communications Manager, 1-800-665-6233, ext. 240 or firstname.lastname@example.org