With data suggesting drug-impaired driving is becoming as prevalent as alcohol-impaired driving, the province is increasing officers’ powers to take offenders off the road.
As of Sunday, October 2nd, police across Ontario will be able to hand out fines or take away drivers’ licenses if Ontarians are caught driving while under the influence of drugs.
Under the new regulations, those who fail roadside tests will face a $180 fine and a three-day suspension of their licence for a first offence. If officers catch a person a second time, the suspension is increased to seven days and 30 days for subsequent occurrences.
Drivers could also have their licenses taken away for 90 days and their vehicles impounded after further testing at a police detachment.
Mandatory education and treatment programs are also possible under the beefed up regulations.
Drivers may also face criminal charges for impaired driving, but these new changes are being implemented now to give police the ability to get impaired drivers off the roads.
The RCMP was quoted as saying in May of this year that surveys and research suggest drug-impaired driving is becoming as prevalent as driving under the influence of alcohol. However, according to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, almost as many drivers died in road crashes after using drugs as those who had been drinking.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is currently studying the impact of cannabis while driving.
“We’re looking at a number of things, one of which is to determine what the impact of cannabis is on performance of the driving-related task compared to placebo. We’re also trying assess the impact between the amount of cannabis that’s in a person’s system,” says the Centre’s Robert Mann.
One thing they do know is smoking cannabis means drivers are more likely to be involved in a collision.
“Of course that means you’re more likely to be injured, perhaps fatally injured or injure others as well,” Mann says.
The full results are set to be published next year.
Nancy Stewart knows the consequences of driving high all too well. Her husband, Doug, died nine years ago when his car was hit head-on by a drug impaired driver after a family birthday celebration in Stratford. The couple’s daughter was seriously injured in the crash.
Doug was obeying the speed limit at the time of the crash and only had milk to drink during the party.
“He was my one and only and best friend…that will never be replaced,” Stewart told Global News of her husband.
“There is a sense of rage,” Stewart said, noting their family is still coming to grips with their loss nine years later.
“We never call it an accident. It’s not an accident. People make that decision to drive impaired and it’s completely selfish and unthoughtful and it’s inexcusable.”
With files from Tom Fraser and Global News