Pubdate: Thu, 29 Dec 2016
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2016 Postmedia Network
Author: Yolande Cole
Page: A1


When they're having these medical emergencies, their car turns into a
missile with nobody at the controls.

In a year when three fatal collisions were linked to drugs, Calgary police
are increasingly concerned about people driving under the influence.

In 2015, there were no fatal crashes specifically related to drugs. Police
are hoping the deaths this year isn't a trend that will continue into

Staff Sgt. Paul Stacey with the Calgary police traffic section noted there
is a lot of uncertainty about potential effects as federal marijuana
legislation comes into play next year.

"Let's say . . . you start seeing the marijuana shops pop up," he said.

"A lot of people that have never tried marijuana that maybe want to
experiment . . . probably, unless they're smokers already, aren't going to
smoke - they're going to eat a chocolate, they're going to eat a jujube
because that seems harmless." Now you can do that and you're not high
instantly - you can start driving, 20 minutes, 30 minutes later, you could
be high."

Calgary police are hoping that education accompanying the legislation will
be extensive, so people "don't get caught unexpectedly doing what they
shouldn't be doing."

Overall in 2016, local law enforcement officers investigated 25 fatal
collisions, including nine pedestrian fatalities and nine impaired
incidents. In addition to the three deadly crashes linked to drugs,
officers also recently attended two collisions in which the drivers were
treated with the fentanyl antidote naloxone - cases that have police
worried amid the prevalence of toxic opioids in the province.

"They're not just driving under the influence, they're actually
overdosing," Stacey said of those cases. "They're having medical
emergencies while they're driving, and when they're having these medical
emergencies, their car turns into a missile with nobody at the controls."

Another recent and disturbing trend that police have been confronted with
is incidents of road rage turned violent.

Stacey said these types of incidents, in which road rage escalates to the
point of assault and vehicle damage, are rare.

"I think the secret is to keep your emotions in check and not engage that
other person, because when you see the two parties engaging each other, it
just keeps ramping up and up and up, and the emotions take over and pretty
soon you have these physical altercations like what we've been seeing," he

Studies on road rage have pointed to various factors, Stacey noted,
including stress associated with gridlock traffic. Distracted driving is
also a factor - for example, when someone sits at a green light because
they're looking down at their phone, or they're not paying attention to
what they're doing and cut off other drivers.

Police have been trying new methods of enforcement of distracted driving,
he noted, such as having officers stand on overpasses and radio to
officers on the road.

In addition to the fatal collisions investigated by police in the past
year, officers have also attended 16 serious injury crashes - a number
that has decreased from last year, when there were 30 serious injury

According to Calgary police statistics, there were 22 fatal collisions in
2015 and 28 in 2014.

Some of the cases that have been particularly difficult for officers in
the past year included the case of a girl killed after being struck by her
father's truck in a Tuscany driveway.

"The aftermath - that is terrible," said Stacey, who said his "heart sunk"
when he watched security camera footage of the case.

Another devastating case was the death of four-year-old Avayah Toulon, who
was struck by a vehicle while she was out on a walk with her family in
Bowness. "Those two in particular were tough on the officers here," Stacey

But the senior police officer said amid these tragic cases, the number of
cars travelling on city streets puts things in perspective. There are
slightly more than a million vehicles registered and, in 2015, police
tracked more than 140 million trips through its 52 camera-monitored
intersections alone.

"I don't want to minimize any of the importance of the numbers of the
fatalities and the like, but when you look at the potential with all that
driving that goes on, I think Calgarians actually do OK," he said.
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