Burnaby, British Columbia – The British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA) Traffic Safety Foundation has reported that while fewer people are driving after drinking, more drivers are testing positive for drugs.

The 2008 British Columbia Roadside Survey, released by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, found that 10.4 per cent of nighttime drivers showed evidence of drug use, while 8.1 per cent tested positive for alcohol; 16.9 per cent tested positive for drugs, alcohol, or both.

“While alcohol-impaired driving appears to be on the down curve at this time of year, it is astounding that drug-impaired driving seems to be taking its place,” said Allan Lamb, executive director of the Traffic Safety Foundation. “There is a perception that drugs, especially marijuana and prescription medications, have little or no effect on driver performance. That is simply not true.”

Police attending collisions reported in B.C. in 2005 said they saw 108 people injured or killed in collisions where the driver’s ability was impaired by a drug. On July 2, 2008, Bill C-2 was passed, allowing Canadian police who suspect a driver of being impaired by any illegal, prescription or over-the-counter drug to demand the driver submit to a breathalyzer test, physical coordination tests, and assessment by a Drug Recognition Expert using an evaluation and classification assessment, along with a demand of bodily fluid samples. There are currently over 1,100 officers in B.C. trained to recognize drug impairment in drivers; such officers will now be present at road checks in communities around the province.

The BCAA Traffic Safety Foundation has established the Alexa Middelaer Memorial Fund, named for a four-year-old who was killed by an out-of-control driver. Initial indications are that speed and alcohol were contributing factors. The fund will use 100 per cent of all donations to promote change in social responsibility, and to educate communities and individuals about the dangers of impaired driving. For more information, or to make a donation, visit BCAATSF.

 

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