Pubdate: Thu, 29 Dec 2016
Source: Calgary Sun, The (CN AB)
Copyright: 2016 The Calgary Sun
Author: Yolande Cole
Page: 3


With three road deaths linked to drugs in 2016, cops worry about
impact of opioids and pot

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 this year's number of deaths isn't a trend that will
continue into 2017.

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

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

"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."

With days left to go 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 are incidents of road rage turning

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 said.

Studies on road rage have pointed to various factors, Stacey noted,
including stress associated with traffic gridlock. 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 for 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 kinds of 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.

"There's a lot of potential conflict that could occur … and 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.

"There's a lot of driving that goes on, and most people make it to
where they want to go unscathed. That's a credit to the people out
there, too."
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