Marijuana impairment is a growing concern for road safety

Drugged driver crackdown hinges on a testing device

7.3 per cent of injured drivers tested in B.C. trauma hospitals smoked marijuana prior to crash: study

Drug-impaired drivers who roam the roads mostly undetected are a top traffic safety priority for B.C. police chiefs.

Their association wants the federal government to approve a roadside testing device that would make it easier for officers to arrest stoned and otherwise drugged drivers.

“Whether it’s marijuana or prescription drugs, there are people that are driving high and for a large part it goes undetected because we don’t have a really good tester and we don’t have many drug recognition experts,” said Transit Police chief Neil Dubord, who chairs the traffic committee of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police.

Officers can arrest and usually issue a 24-hour suspension to a driver who is seriously drug-impaired.

But in less obvious cases, police have little recourse unless an officer is available who is highly trained in observing the signs of drug use.

There’s no device akin to a breathalyzer now in use in Canada to measure levels of cannabis or other drugs.

But Dubord said there are “amazing” mobile testing systems available in the U.S. that can detect 27 different drugs from a saliva swab.

He said federal approval of a roadside device is probably a couple of years away.

But he said it could allow not just criminal impairment charges but potentially the addition of drug use to B.C.’s system of automatic roadside suspensions and impoundments for drunk driving.

“With the proper tool, we may be able to get there as well,” Dubord said, adding accuracy of the testing technology would have to be assured.

The most recent study by researchers, published by the B.C. Medical Journal, found 5.4 per cent of drivers randomly checked in roadside surveys in 2012 had cannabis in their systems, followed by 4.1 per cent with cocaine and 1.7 per cent with amphetamines.

Separate testing of drivers hospitalized with trauma injuries following crashes found 12.6 per cent were positive for cannabis, with 7.3 per cent showing recent use.

“Cannabis slows reaction times, causes weaving, creates difficulty maintaining a constant speed, and predisposes to distraction,” Dr. Jeff Brubacher wrote this month in the BCMJ.

Brubacher said research so far suggests acute cannabis use roughly doubles the risk of crashing, while more research is needed to understand the crash risk from prescription drugs as well as stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines.

The ongoing political debate over potential marijuana reform in Canada is also a factor driving the police chiefs’ agenda.

“If there’s decriminalization or legalization or whatever ends up happening, we want to make sure we have the tools as well to be able to manage that successfully,” Dubord said. “Because at the end of the day we want people on the roads to be safe.”

Just Posted

UPDATE: Tsunami warning cancelled for coastal British Columbia

Warning issued following 7.9 earthquake off Kodiak, AK

UPDATE: Police probe fuel truck and train collision in Port Coquitlam

CP Rail reporting no injuries, driver of truck is safe.

Knitting for a cause

Tamara Cockroft knits “warm hugs” for babies

‘Restless night’ for Semiahmoo First Nation after tsunami warning

Alaska earthquake puts Semiahmoo First Nation on notice

UPDATE: Pioneer Ave filming to include snow effects, stunt driving and fire arms

Pioneer Avenue to be backdrop for scenes set in 1950s

Week in Review – January 19

Movie filming, water upgrades and more

Castlegar homicide victim identified

The victim was 38-year-old Jordan Workman of Castlegar, B.C.

B.C. Liberal leadership candidates get one last prime-time pitch

Leadership campaign to be decided in Feb. 3 vote

Homeless evicted from First Nation reserve land say they have nowhere to go

‘Why not just let us stay until spring?’ one camper at Chilliwack site pleads

Andrew Scheer on trade, Trump and Trudeau

Canada’s Conservative leader begins three-day visit to B.C.

Victims restrained, sex toys and cash stolen from B.C. adult store

Armed suspects sought in adult store robbery

UPDATED: 10 Safeways in Lower Mainland to close

Locations in Vancouver, Burnaby, Surrey, Coquitlam, Richmond and Mission slated to shut

Vancouver Islanders ponder need for tsunami siren song

Alarm sounds in Port Alberni but not at the DND base in Esquimalt

Five charged in bid to shut pop-up pot market in Vancouver’s Robson Square

Marijuana flower, edibles, money and some weapons were seized as part of weekend raid

Most Read