A new MADD Canada report highlights the challenges with Canada's current approach to investigating and prosecuting drug-impaired drivers and calls on the federal government to make improvements.

In 2008, the Criminal Code was amended to give police the authority to demand Standard Field Sobriety Testing (SFST) and Drug Recognition Evaluations (DRE). Despite those powers and training approximately 800 officers as certified DRE experts (at a cost of $17,000 per officer), the rate of drug-impaired driving charges is extremely low.

In "An Overview of Federal Drug-Impaired Driving Enforcement and Provincial Licence Suspensions in Canada", written by Professors Robert Solomon and Erika Chamberlain of the Faculty of Law at the University of Western Ontario, MADD Canada found that the number of drug-impaired driving charges laid in 2010 is just 1.4% of the total number of impaired driving charges. Of the 65,183 Criminal Code impaired driving charges, only 915 were for drug impairment.

Research and surveys indicate that drug-impaired driving is becoming an increasingly significant problem in Canada. In fact, drug-impaired driving may already be more prevalent than alcohol-impaired driving among young drivers. Yet, the number of charges being laid does not accurately reflect the problem.

"The statistics tell us that our current approach to drug impaired driving is not working," said Professor Solomon. "The survey and charge data suggest that the average user would have to make 550 trips after using marijuana before he or she would be charged once. That reinforces the existing perception, especially among young people, that they can drive after drug use with little fear of being caught."

The amendments made in 2008 were necessary. SFST and DRE will continue to be used to identify drug-impaired drivers, but we also have to build new countermeasures that will allow more effective investigation and prosecution of drug impaired drivers.

MADD Canada is calling on Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and the federal government to move beyond the current model and develop road-side saliva testing for drugs and per se drug limits for the most commonly-used illicit drugs.

Such limits would be similar to the BAC (blood-alcohol concentration) limit for alcohol.

While identifying and measuring drug impairment is significantly more complicated than measuring alcohol, MADD Canada is urging the government to follow the path set by other jurisdictions which have adopted drug per se limits and corresponding enforcement tools, such as random roadside testing. This approach has been adopted in several Australian states and a number of Western European countries and has proven to be effective in the identification, investigation and prosecution of drug-impaired drivers.

Source:  MADD Matters Newsletter Winter 2012



Last updated on: 2012-12-14 | Link to this post