Pubdate: Thu, 19 Nov 2009
Source: North Island Gazette (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 Black Press
Author: Teresa Bird
Bookmark: (Cannabis and Driving)


PORT HARDY - The RCMP have a new weapon in their arsenal for fighting
impaired driving.

Cst. Ed Nugent has completed the Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) program
to help identify drivers who are impaired by drugs.

"I am basically the equivalent of a breathalyzer for drugs," said
Nugent. The program was developed in the U.S. and Nugent took the
training first in Vancouver, then got practical experience in Arizona,
where he tried out his new skills on prisoners there.

Drivers who are suspected of being impaired by drugs are treated just
like one impaired by alcohol, said Nugent.

"An officer on the roadside stops someone and forms grounds to believe
they are impaired by a drug," he explained. "They retain that person
and make a demand for them to be evaluated by a DRE officer."

The program is fairly new in Canada, partly because until recently
legislation did not allow officers to demand a driver undergo the
evaluation. Now legislation is in place and an evaluation can be
demanded just like a breathalyzer test, said Nugent.

The tests take place at the detachment and take about 45 to 90 minutes
to complete.

"I am new so I am taking my time," said Nugent. The tests include
psych-physical, divided attention and clinical evaluations.

And the training is already paying off, said Nugent, who pointed to
two cases that have involved DRE evaluations. One resulted in a
24-hour suspension, the other is still under investigation, said
Nugent. Nugent said drivers need to be aware that driving while under
the influence of drugs is the same as alcohol.

"I think a lot of people don't think it is as serious as driving under
the influence of alcohol and I think people don't believe it can be
detected," said Nugent.

But he wants to assure them it can.

Nugent can detect all categories of drugs, from cannabis to stimulants
to depressants, legal or not.

"It is important to point out that it's not just illegal drugs that
can impair you," said Nugent. "Anything from cough syrup to
prescription drugs can impair you ... it's not okay just because your
doctor gave it to you." 
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