August’s Traffic Safety Spotlight focuses on impaired driving
“I drive better when I’m high!”
“They’ll never catch me!”
“Pffft. That will never hold up in court!”
Sound familiar? There are plenty of misconceptions floating around regarding marijuana use and driving. The truth is that it’s illegal and will continue to be illegal in Saskatchewan to drive while impaired – whether by drugs or alcohol – even once marijuana use becomes legal in Canada on Oct. 17, 2018.
Think about it: people don’t smoke marijuana so they can feel the exact same. It is an impairing substance that alters your perception – and it increases your chances of being in a crash.
“To put it simply, impaired is impaired,” said Penny McCune, Chief Operating Officer of the Auto Fund. “Any substance that alters your thinking will impact your ability to drive safely. If you smoke marijuana, you should not get behind the wheel until you’re sure the effects have fully worn off.”
Smoking marijuana affects judgment, reaction time, motor coordination and ability to make decisions. It can also cause paranoia, drowsiness, distorted perception and a sense of disorientation – all of which could cause you to lose control at the wheel. Mixing drugs and alcohol increases impairment even more.
If you think police won’t be able to tell if you’re driving while high, think again. Weaving within a lane, following a vehicle too closely, making unsafe turns – these can all be indications that a driver is high. Marijuana can also be detected by odor and by the driver’s physical appearance – including dilated pupils, poor balance and co-ordination.
If the police suspect that a driver is impaired by a drug or alcohol or a combination of both, they can make a demand that the driver take a standardized field sobriety test at roadside. If the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a driver is impaired by a drug, they can make a demand that the driver submit to an evaluation conducted by a Drug Recognition Evaluator (DRE).
“Drug Recognition Evaluators undergo extensive training and use a rigorous, scientific 12-step procedure in performing the evaluation,” said Cpl. Brian Ferguson, Provincial DRE Training Coordinator. “The evaluation must show impairment, signs and symptoms consistent with one or more drug categories, and the evaluator’s findings must be supported by the toxicology.”
More and more police in Saskatchewan are being trained to recognize signs of impairment from drugs. There are currently 74 DRE-certified officers in the province, with 20 to 40 new officers trained each year.
But will these tests hold up in court? Absolutely. Drug recognition evaluations have been accepted by Canadian courts as legally binding evidence in impaired driving cases for many years.
So, don’t drive high. It’s not worth it and you’re going to get caught. Impaired drivers in Saskatchewan face some of the toughest administrative sanctions in the country, with immediate licence suspensions and vehicle seizures at roadside. Upon conviction, further penalties imposed by the courts may include fines, jail time and long-term driving restrictions.
Follow these tips to keep you and yours safe:
• Be a Good Wingman – don’t let impaired friends drive.
• Don’t drive high – weed increases your chances of getting into a collision and when combined with alcohol, impairment increases significantly.
• Plan a safe ride home – impaired driving is 100% preventable.
• Remember – it is illegal to operate any kind of motor vehicle while impaired by any substance. Police are trained to check for and recognize drug impairment.
Hashtag alert! A ticket you’ll WANT to get
While police will be looking for impaired drivers throughout August, some will also be handing out “positive tickets” to drivers who aren’t impaired. Any driver who receives one can post a picture of it on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and use the hashtag #CareAboutImpaired to be eligible to win one of 25 $150 Visa gift cards. This is one of five new impaired driving initiatives being piloted in Saskatchewan this month.
Our friends at MADD Canada are partnering with a number of organizations to raise awareness over the August long weekend on the dangers of impaired driving. You can be a part of the conversation by following @Sask0804 on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and using the hashtag #HowAreYouGettingHome.