Research Papers


Filename 5B-Leonard-FP.docx
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Version 1
Date added June 30, 2016
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Category 2016 CARSP XXVI Halifax
Tags Policy and Practice, Session 5B
Author/Auteur Anne Leonard
Stream/Volet Policy and Practice

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Background/Context: For decades drug impaired driving has been on the radar of most road safety professionals. Studies have been completed in a variety of jurisdictions with various goals and mixed findings. It is well known within the field that: testing for drugs is very different than testing for alcohol; there are challenges with accurately assessing type of drug and amount for the purpose of convictions; there remains some discussion on the concept and approach for a per se limit; there are fewer/no regulations concerning illicit drugs especially and that many times both alcohol and drugs are present – creating its own set of complications and outcomes.

In 2008 the federal government in Canada passed legislation giving officers the authority to conduct Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) and to make a demand for a fluid sample to be tested for drugs. This authority applies irrespective of the drug source (licit or illicit). One of the challenges is in convincing drivers, especially young drivers that driving high is risky. And our justice/enforcement systems are overall somewhat behind with charging and convicting high drivers. In 2014 Ontario passed legislation to amend the existing consequences for drivers with drugs in their system. After meeting to deliberate existing legislation and proposed consequences for drug-impaired driving, the Ontario government passed a bill that, when implemented, will mean that drivers who fail a Standard Field Sobriety Test and a subsequent Drug Recognition Evaluation test will face the same immediate consequences as drivers who have a BAC from .05 to .08, and drivers who have a BAC of over .08. The revised legislation fills a void in Ontario's administrative sanctions that has evolved wherein officers may be able to charge a driver with impaired driving but would have to allow those same drivers to keep their driver's licence until convicted in court.

With several jurisdictions in the U.S.A. making changes to allow the legal sale of marijuana under various circumstances and with Canada's anticipated steps towards decriminalization/legalization of marijuana, having some strategies in place for dealing with high drivers is increasingly necessary.

These many changes to dealing with marijuana impact all of those working in road safety. Police have had to adjust and re-educate on methods for detecting and testing, and for assessing and measuring. Training programs for officers have limited access and sometimes require extensive travel, and recertification elements as well. arrive alive DRIVE SOBER has had to revisit their approaches to raising awareness around the issue as some studies have shown – drugged drivers have their own very different modis operendi driving drugged at any hour of the day and any day of the week.

Aims/Objectives: To raise awareness of the risks that drug impaired drivers present on the roads and of the existing/ coming legislation and authority that officers have to remove these drivers from the road. To investigate the attitudes that media, government, schools, drivers, and others have towards licit and illicit drug use and misuse; and to assess their attitudes towards prevention/awareness resources that address drug impaired driving.

Methods/Target Group: The general public.

Results/Activities: Late in 2012 arrive alive DRIVE SOBER worked with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and Ottawa Police to create a message for the general public around Standard Field Sobriety Tests and Drug Recognition Evaluation. In 2014 we partnered with Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving and the Ministry of Transportation on a social media campaign called Eggs On Weed to reach a younger demographic with information about drug impaired driving. Other messages have been created as well for conventional broadcast use (television, radio and print resources).

Discussion/Deliverables: Drug impaired driving messages and education are a “horse of a different colour” and require a different approach and increased concern and pickup from the public. The training that is currently required to allow police to test/assess drugs in a system is expensive, complicated and difficult to arrange because of the cross-border aspects; other solutions should be sought. Media needs to be encouraged to air drug impaired driving messages with similar vigor as drunk driving. Attention must be paid to this issue as the dialogue around relaxing access to and consumption of marijuana is continued.

Anne Leonard