A brief overview of the the prospective issues with testing for drug-impaired driving.
Later this year, the Canadian Government will legalize marijuana. This, of course, necessitates reform to our impaired driving laws. While we all agree that police officers must be able to detect high drivers, the reliability of current drug impairment testing is less certain.
Indeed, marijuana is far less suitable to accurate roadside screening than is alcohol. As of yet, there is no breath test for pot. Rather, officers rely primarily on their training, questioning, and their own observations. The problem, then, is that this method is based primarily on the officer’s subjective opinion. In other words, there is no objective confirmation of impairment like there is when a motorist fails a roadside breathalyzer. Instead, suspected drug-impaired drivers are arrested and must undergo a Drug Influence Evaluation back at the station. This can include questions, eye examinations, pulse tests, balance tests, one-leg tests, finger-to-nose tests, walking in a straight line, blood pressure tests, and taking your temperature.
Statistics Canada has found that drug-impaired driving charges take almost twice as long to prosecute as alcohol impaired driving charges – and are less likely to result in a conviction. This suggests that current methods are comparatively unsuccessful in actually identifying drug-impaired drivers. After all, many supposed indicia of drug-impairment are consistent with other innocuous explanations such as a motor-vehicle accident, fatigue, side-effects of legal medications, or any number of medical conditions.
The consequences for misidentifying drug-impaired drivers are significant. Innocent motorists could be subject to police stops, arrests, and charges based on inaccurate testing – all of which represent a substantial disruption in a person’s life. Indeed, charges often take months or even years to resolve.
For these reasons, Canadians must demand accurate roadside drug-impaired driving screening process as a pre-requisite to legalization.