HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Police Get New Powers To Nab Drivers On Drugs
Pubdate: Mon, 16 Jun 2008
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2008 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Bruce Owen
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Cannabis and Driving)


Marijuana, crack cocaine or too much pain medication?

It's been tough for police to tell what a person is high on,
especially when they're behind the wheel -- but that's about to change.

Police forces across the province are gearing up for July 2 when a new
federal law takes effect that gives them additional powers to boot
drug-impaired drivers off the road.

Leading Manitoba's law enforcement agencies is the Winnipeg Police
Service which has been training its officers and other police
municipal forces in drug recognition for almost a decade.

"It goes so far beyond the glassy eyes and slurred speech," Const.
Damien Turner, the WPS impaired driving counter-measures co-ordinator

What this means is that the day after Canada Day police can demand
that a suspected drug-impaired driver undergo a 12-step evaluation
process to pinpoint what drug or drugs a person has ingested. Failure
to submit is an automatic refusal charge, same as for refusing an
alcohol breath test.

Turner said the WPS now has 17 officers trained as drug recognition
experts (DRE), following standards set by the International
Association of Chiefs of Police. There are also about 60 officers
trained in conducting standardized field sobriety tests, a series of
eye and physical co-ordination tests. These field tests are often done
moments after the vehicle is pulled over and are separate from the
12-step drug evaluation process.

"Police officers follow certain procedures that recognize signs of
drug use and categorize the drug being used," Turner said of the DREs,
adding the same kind of testing is already done in parts of the United
States where similar laws have been in place for years.

A police drug recognition expert can tell if the drug is a stimulant
such as cocaine or a depressant like marijuana. A police DRE can also
determine if a driver has been abusing prescription medication, like
over-medicating, using it in wrong combination with another medicine
or combining it with booze. Part of the testing also involves a
breathalyser test.

"We know very often drugs and alcohol are mixed," Turner

The last part of the drug recognition test is a urine sample to be
lab-tested to verify the drug in the person's system.

The new law was passed Feb. 28 as part of the Harper government's
massive crime bill. The bill also raises age of sexual consent to 16
from 14, streamlines the process for getting a dangerous offender
designation and introduces new firearms offences.

Turner said Mounties and police in Brandon and Winkler are also
trained in drug recognition. Six WPS officers are also trained in
teaching DRE testing, and some are going to other provinces to train
other police agencies in the lead-up to the new law being enforceable
this summer.

"We are ahead of the curve compared to other provinces," he


Drugs often found with fatally injured drivers

How many drug impaired drivers are on the road is not widely studied.
Police say information will only be more consistently gathered after
Ottawa's new drug impairment law comes into effect July 2.

Here's what is known:

Some studies have found the crash risk for drivers who have been using
cannabis is actually lower than for drivers who were drug-free; other
studies have found an increased crash risk for cannabis users of 1.5
to 2.5 times that of sober drivers.

The evidence about the crash risk associated with benzodiazepines ?--
a group of central nervous system depressants frequently used to treat
insomnia or anxiety -- is mixed as well.

Very few studies have examined the crash risk associated with
stimulant drugs, including amphetamines and cocaine; those that have
done so have reported only small increases in risk.

Police say drugs are often found among fatally injured drivers. For

A 1995 study in British Columbia said 48 per cent of these cases
tested positive for alcohol and 20 per cent tested positive for some

In a 2002 Quebec study 35 per cent of cases were positive for alcohol
and 30 per cent were positive for some drug.

The most commonly detected illegal substance is cannabis.

Drivers who were positive for cannabis were much more likely to be
male and under the age of 25.

Among those who were positive for cannabis in an Ontario study, 84 per
cent were also positive for alcohol.

Police are concerned that many young people substitute marijuana use
for alcohol because the former is difficult to detect.

- -- Traffic Injury Research Foundation
- ---
MAP posted-by: Steve Heath