Burnaby, British Columbia – The British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA) Traffic Safety Foundation is warning that drivers impaired by drugs are a danger to all road users.
Executive director Allan Lamb said he is concerned that young drivers who act responsibly when it comes to combining alcohol and driving have no idea that they could become too impaired to drive after smoking cannabis, using cocaine or taking a drug of choice.
According to a new survey released by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, Alcohol and Drug Use Among Drivers: British Columbia Roadside Survey for 2008, fewer people are driving after drinking, but more are doing so after taking drugs.
“Aside from the disbelief about impairment by drug use, there are drivers out there who don’t think that the police can detect this kind of impairment, or that the police can even do anything about it,” Lamb said. “Well, they are wrong.”
There are currently over 1,700 police officers in B.C. trained to recognize drug impairment in drivers. Canadian police who suspect a driver of being impaired by any drug, whether illegal, prescription or over-the-counter, can now demand the subject submit to a breathalyzer test, physical coordination tests, and an assessment by a drug recognition expert, using a drug evaluation and classification assessment, along with a demand of bodily fluid samples, including blood, saliva or urine. Penalties for drug-impaired drivers include a fine of not less than $1,000 for the first offence, and imprisonment for the second offence of not less than 30 days, and not less than 120 days for each subsequent offence.
Anyone convicted of operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs, alcohol or both will be prohibited from driving a vehicle for one to three years for the first offence, and two to five years for the second offence.