Police back new impaired-driving laws at Senate committee
Bill C-46 would authorize mandatory roadside screenings and enact new criminal offences for driving with specified blood-drug concentrations.
Canadian police officers are backing new impaired driving laws being studied in the Senate, saying that mandatory roadside tests will help reduce death and injury once implemented.
Tom Stamatakis, the president of the Canadian Police Association, told the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs that the significant modernization of impaired driving laws proposed in Bill C-46 will help get impaired drivers off the road – and save lives.
“While there is no question we have had success through education in reducing the number of impaired-driving incidents, there aren’t many officers you could talk to in this country who don’t have at least one heartbreaking story of responding to a motor vehicle incident where alcohol or drugs were a factor,” he told the committee on Feb. 15, 2018.
I’m confident in saying the changes proposed by C-46, specifically those that allow for mandatory roadside testing, will help our officers more effectively reduce the number of those stories.
Among other changes, Bill C-46 would authorize mandatory roadside screenings, which have been shown to effectively reduce the rates of injury and death from impaired driving in other jurisdictions. The bill would also enact new criminal offences for driving with specified blood-drug concentrations, and would increase penalties for those caught driving impaired.
The bill arrived in the Senate in November and the committee has heard from 43 witnesses over the course of eight meetings. The bill would be implemented in two parts, with the drug-impaired driving provisions coming into force upon Royal Assent, and the comprehensive regime coming into force 180 days later, to allow officers time to adjust to the changes.
Increasing training capacity
In the meantime, police services across the country are preparing to train new drug recognition experts.
Byron Boucher, an assistant commissioner for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, told the committee on Feb. 14, 2018 that there are currently 665 drug recognition experts across the country with 17 training courses planned this year to increase that number.
Trevor Bhupsingh, a director at Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, noted that impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death in Canada. He told the committee that although there is a high instance of drug use among drivers, there is a relatively low instance of police-reported drug-impaired driving.
“Taken together, these elements show a clear need for improved detection of drug-impaired drivers on Canadian roads,” he told the committee on Feb. 14, 2018.
One measure in Bill C-46 would allow law enforcement to use oral fluid drug screening devices to detect drug-impaired driving. Bhupsingh said that a pilot project, conducted in Canada from December 2016 to March 2017, found that three devices were reliable in detecting drugs in various weather conditions.
Public Safety Canada has also put in place a three-year agreement to research the correlations between cannabis use, driving abilities, level of THC in the blood and oral fluid, he added.
As funding is being rolled out to provinces and territories, Bhupsingh said police services across the country are already increasing their training capacity in anticipation of cannabis legalization.