Pubdate: Wed, 03 Jan 2007
Source: Nor'wester, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2007, Transcontinental Media
Author: Greg Knott, nor'wester
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Canada)
Bookmark: (Marijuana and Driving)


Feds Introduce Legislation to Combat Drug Impaired Driving

Impaired driving claims the lives of hundreds of people  across the
country every year.

According to the Department of Justice, in 2003,  alcohol and/or drugs
were involved in 1,257 fatalities,  47,181 injuries and 161,299
property-damage crashes  involving 245,174 vehicles across Canada.

Incidents of drug impaired driving have also been on  the rise. A
survey of Ontario high school drivers in  2003 found close to 20 per
cent had driven within one  hour of using cannabis (marijuana) at
least once in the  previous year.

The federal government proposed legislative reforms  this fall to
strengthen the laws against alcohol and  drug-impaired drivers. These
reforms will make it  easier to investigate and prosecute impaired
driving  offences, including those involving drug-impaired  drivers.

Constable Peter MacIntyre of the RCMP in Deer Lake said  since he
completed a drug recognition course in  February 2005 there have been
six incidences of  impaired driving under the influence of drugs on
the  west coast.

The reforms introduced into the House of Commons in  November seeks
stiffer penalties and provides more  tools for police for recognition
of drugs including  physical tests and bodily fluid samples for drug

The amendments to the law were supposed to go to its  second reading
in Parliament earlier this month but due  to other matters were
postponed. The House of Commons  does not reopen until January, but
Const. MacIntyre is  hoping the law will be on the books by next summer.

The drug influence evaluation which will be  administered to suspects
is a 12-step process to  determine if a person is impaired, and if
they are  impaired, what category of drugs they're using at the  time.

The process consists of everything from, sobriety tests  like walking
a straight line, to measurements like  blood pressure, heart rate, and
including the pupil  size and reaction to light, etc.

"It's a fairly in-depth investigation which takes any  where from 45
minutes to an hour," Cst. MacIntyre  explained.

Anyone suspected of driving while impaired can be  tested for drugs or

"I've done tests already. We've seen everything from  depressants, to
stimulants, to narcotic analgesics like  painkillers, cannabis.
Whether it's prescription drugs  or illegal drugs, we're seeing it

Even if a person is found to be impaired while under  the influence of
a legal prescription drug they can  still be charged with impaired

Laws related to impaired driving caused by drugs have  been in effect
in the US since the 1970's

Const. MacIntyre along with a number of other RCMP  officers from
across the country did a course in  Halifax in 2005, becoming drug
recognition experts.  They then traveled to the Phoenix, Arizona where
they  did testing on people being brought to jail under the  influence
of drugs.

Drug impaired driving laws were developed in the United  States in Los
Angeles in the mid-1970's.

Const. MacIntyre said currently there is a lot of  misinformation
about the legislation in the public and  basically the new reforms are
designed to take  high-risk offenders off the road.

While the incidents in this province are not as  frequent as in other
parts of the country or US, Cst.  MacIntyre said, daily through the
internet and other  media, they are seeing incidents elsewhere of
accidents  and death caused by drug impaired drivers.
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