Pubdate: Thu, 18 Aug 2016
Source: Airdrie City View (CN AB)
Copyright: 2016 Airdrie City View Ltd.
Author: Christina Waldner


In Alberta, impaired driving includes driving while under the
influence of both legal and illegal drugs such as marijuana and
doctor-prescribed painkillers.

"It comes as a surprise to many people that drunk driving and drugged
driving carry the same criminal charges," Alberta Minister of
Transportation Brian Mason said in a release Aug. 5. "This is because
both substances impair a driver's ability and increase the likelihood
of being involved in a collision."

According to information posted on the provincial government's
website, drugs were found to be a factor in 40 per cent of all fatal
collisions in 2012 in Canada, with Alberta slightly above this
national average at 41 percent, or 82 drivers.

In contrast, 71 drivers in fatal collisions tested positive for
alcohol in Canada in 2012, and 34 of those had both alcohol and drugs
in their systems.

According to Alberta Transportation Public Affairs Officer Adam
Johnson, the province does not compile statistics specific to Airdrie
and area.

Johnson said the federal government's plan to legalize marijuana is
something the province is watching carefully, though how it will
impact Alberta law is "impossible to speculate.

"We definitely want to stay away from making too much of a guess
before that happens because we don't know what any of that
legalization is going to look like," he said.

"Of course, we're keeping a close eye on what is happening and we'll
be taking the necessary steps to ensure Alberta's roads stay safe and
we can address those concerns when they do come to fruition."

A 2015 study conducted by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse into
marijuana use by the drivers of motor vehicles found driving requires
a number of skills - including reaction time, concentration and visual
function - which are negatively impacted by the drug. Individuals
driving while under the influence of marijuana are more likely to
speed, follow the vehicle in front of them too closely and have
trouble staying in their own lane, according to the study.

The Calgary Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada,
which also oversaw the Airdrie area, originally campaigned to make
people aware of the dangers of drunk driving but has changed that to
the broader concept of impaired driving, including drug impaired
driving, according to Denise Dubyc, one of the founding members of the
Chapter and former Board member.

Dubyc said the organization has concerns about the federal
government's plan to legalize marijuana.

"As the legalization is perhaps coming along for marijuana, we are
imploring the government to be prepared ahead of time for the impaired
driving that will ensue with drugs," she said.

Dubyc said MADD has been meeting with both the federal and provincial
governments, which included asking for a legal limit to be introduced
for drug impaired driving and a mechanism for testing for impairment
by police.

"(Police) may know someone is high or impaired by drugs, however they
need some way to measure it. We're promoting that saliva testing be
the way to go for that first roadside testing," she said.

"We've been meeting with the federal government and the provincial
governments to educate them about what we know about drug impaired
driving, and what we think needs to happen before things get
(approved)," she said. "Let's respond rather than react."
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MAP posted-by: Matt