Pubdate: Thu, 01 Dec 2016
Source: Recorder & Times, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 Recorder and Times
Author: Sabrina Bedford
Page: A3


For its annual festive RIDE campaign, the local Ontario Provincial
Police are trying to dispel the myth that driving while high on drugs
cannot be detected by officers.

The Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere( RIDE) campaign, which started
on November 21 and runs through January 7, 2017, is working to
convince the public, and those who choose to drive under the influence
of legal or illegal drugs, that it' s not a safe alternative to
driving while under the influence of alcohol.

In fact, Sgt. Angie Atkinson of the East Region O PP said, while it's
difficult to breakdown statistics between alcohol and drugs until the
end of the year, there have been two fatal collisions in East Region
so far in 2016 where impaired driving was considered the mitigating

The numbers of people charged, however, are much higher.

"For impaired charges, there's 625 charges in East Region in relation
to alcohol, and 31 that are attributed to

drugs," Atkinson told The Recorder and Times.

There is no equivalent of the breathalyzer for marijuana, Brockville'
s police chief Scott Fraser has previously said, and obtaining a blood
sample in such a case requires a warrant.

In jurisdictions such as Colorado, where marijuana is now legal,
police are employing drug recognition experts - something the OPP is
now doing as well.

Despite a lack of a "breathalyzer" test, Atkinson said police have a
protocol in place if they suspect a driver is impaired by drugs.

"When you' re speaking with somebody, the officer is making a
determination, through having a conversation, on what that person' s
status is. If they believe alcohol or drugs are an issue, they ask the
person to participate in a standard field sobriety test," she said.

"Once that's concluded, if they believe drugs are a factor, they will
contact the drug recognition officers to come and take it from there."

Officers are specially trained as drug recognition evaluators, where
they' re given the skills, authority, and tools needed to detect
drug-impaired drivers, and are called whenever it's suspected a driver
is 'high'.

As of October 2 of this year, Ontario legislation carries penalties
for drug impaired driving that match those already in place for
alcohol-impaired drivers, police say.

But police are still reminding the public that illegal drugs are not
the only drugs that can impair one's ability to drive, and many
prescribed medications have the ability to impair judgement as well.

Last year, the OPP investigated 65 road collisions throughout the
province in which a drug-impaired driver was found to be the primary
cause of the crash.

So far this year, the same factor was behind 59 such collisions on OPP
patrolled roads.

And 35 people have died this year in alcohol/drug-related crashes,
which has the total number of road deaths in this category over the
last 10 years nearing the 650 mark.

"The solution to ending impaired-related road deaths is a simple one.
Never drive if you are impaired by alcohol or drugs and know that you
are doing the right thing by calling 9-1-1 to report an impaired
driver," said O PP deputy commissioner Brad Blair.
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