Pubdate: Wed, 01 Jun 2016
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Page: A5
Copyright: 2016 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Paula McCooey


Police will need better tools to catch impaired drivers if Parliament 
is going to legalize marijuana, the country's leading safe-driving 
group said Tuesday.

MADD Canada had a series of meetings with new members of Parliament 
to discuss what it calls the need to implement better roadside 
testing technology, before legislation to legalize is passed.

National president Angeliki Souranis told a news conference at the 
Radisson Hotel on Queen Street the organization would like to see the 
government implement "drug wipe" roadside saliva tests, similar to 
the breathalyzer tests that detect alcohol, because they are more effective.

"The current system does little to deter people from driving after 
drug use," said Souranis. "Because the chance of being caught and 
charged is so low."

Currently, if a person is stopped for suspected drug impairment, 
police conduct physical "field sobriety tests" and "drug recognition 
evaluations." But MADD says the training is expensive, time consuming 
and yields few charges.

The group says drug-impaired driving needs to be on the radar of lawmakers.

In 2012, there were 614 road fatalities in Canada in which a driver 
had drugs present in their system, compared to 476 fatalities in 
which a driver had alcohol in their system.

However, by contrast, in 2014, only 2.6 per cent of all impaired 
driving charges were drug-related.

MADD CEO Andrew Murie showed the roadside oral fluid test that 
detects recent use of seven groups of illicit drugs, including 
cannabis, opiates and cocaine, through a quick swab of a driver's 
tongue. He said the test offers instant results and can be used by 
all officers, opposed to the current system, in which only a fraction 
of the force has received the drug-recognition evaluation training.

"Oral fluid technology is used extensively in Australia and Europe. 
It was brought in a year ago in the U.K.," said Murie "In one year of 
using oral fluid testing, the arrests for drug impaired drivers 
increased 800 per cent in the U.K. So it's very effective technology."

The test works much like a pregnancy test, in which one pink line 
shows a negative result, while a double pink line show a positive 
drug detection. The officer then inserts the test into a screen 
reader which reveals which drug was detected.

"A failure of this is a reasonable suspicion to demand an evidentiary 
test that will be a second oral fluid test that will be sent to a lab 
for analysis," he said, adding the federal government needs to give 
police authorization to use test, establish limits and amend the 
Criminal Code of Canada by separating drug impairment from alcohol.

Murie said feedback from politicians was positive and expects the 
devices will likely be approved.

"Our understanding is that the RCMP, through the drugs and driving 
committee, is ready to recommend to the justice minister the approval 
of these devices ... and then at any time after that (police 
officers) can start to use them."
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