A recent Department of Public Safety report titled Public Opinion Research On Drug Impaired Driving shows some disturbing trends regarding drug-impaired driving that have those in authority concerned. The report consists of a research study conducted with 2,000 Canadians in January and February 2020, and found that many people driving under the influence of cannabis do not consider their behaviour as risky. Two in five said they did not feel impaired at all, and one in five replied that they still believed they could drive safely. Twenty-six percent admitted to operating a vehicle under the influence, even while 90% of the Canadians surveyed said they knew and understood that driving after using cannabis is illegal.
In July 2021, Statistics Canada disclosed in a report titled Impaired Driving In Canada that in 2019, the first year of the legalization of cannabis, there were 6,453 incidents of drug-impaired driving, a marked difference from 2016, when 3,038 drug-impaired driving charges were reported. This is an increase of 43% since legalization, and those who use cannabis and drive are now considered a major contributor to fatalities caused by traffic accidents. In addition, drinking and driving charges tend to be at their highest during twilight hours, while drug-impaired driving charges happen at all times of the day.
What to know about driving and marijuana
Canada’s Bill C-46 set a legal roadside limit on blood cannabis concentrations of five billionths of a gram (five nanograms), which could be qualified as the equivalent of a single joint, depending on the person, their size, and their ability to process the drug. Being behind the wheel with more than two and less than five nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood will result in a summary charge that carries a maximum federal criminal penalty of up to a $1,000 fine. Five nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood and above is an indictable (criminal) offence that, if convicted, will result in a minimum $1,000 fine for a first offense, a mandatory 30 days imprisonment for a second offense and mandatory 120 days in jail for a third offense.
Criminally impaired drivers will face an immediate 90-day suspension of their licence and immediate three-day seizure of their vehicle. They will also be required to take part in a one-year ignition interlock program as well as mandatory remedial education
Remember, there is zero tolerance for cannabis or any illegal drugs in the systems of graduated drivers licence (GDL) vehicle operators. There is already zero tolerance for alcohol.
Penalties are high for GDL drivers who have violated the law. Driving under the influence of cannabis is considered the same as driving under the influence of alcohol, and can seriously jeopardize chances of becoming fully licenced. If found to have any alcohol or drugs in their systems, GDL drivers will be subject to an immediate 30-day licence suspension, a seven-day seizure of their vehicle and be required to remain in the GDL program for two years, with at least one year of suspension-free driving.
Penalties are more serious for drivers who have high levels of impairment or who injure or kill others while driving impaired, and those who are repeat offenders.
Roadside testing for drug-impaired driving
Police services in major cities such as Calgary and Edmonton will conduct a field sobriety test if they suspect someone of drug-impaired driving. Officers are specially trained to evaluate drivers and will carry out a series of tests, including asking questions, an eye exam, and some movement tests. If there is reasonable suspicion of drug-impaired driving, the driver will be arrested and then referred to a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) to further determine the level of impairment and what drug the driver is impaired by.
The DRE test involves a 12-step evaluation, which includes:
- Measuring the driver’s blood pressure
- Pupil size
- Body temperature
- Eye’s reaction to light
- Horizontal Gaze Nystamus (HGN) test
- Vertical Gaze Nystamus (VGN) test
- Divided attention tests.
Once the evaluation is completed and the driver is determined to be impaired by a drug, a body fluid (urine or blood) sample will be requested. That be sent to a lab to confirm the blood concentration of drugs. Charges will be laid once the lab has confirmed the presence of drugs, confirming the DRE’s assessment.
Police services have been purchasing the Dräger 5000 drug testing devices, which is an oral fluid testing device approved by the federal government. These can be used on-site and provide quick results, however their performance abilities are still being evaluated.
Impaired Driving and Your Car Insurance
Not only does an impaired driving conviction result in a criminal record, it also results in difficulty getting car insurance in Alberta. Drivers who have been convicted of serious offences are considered “high risk,” making car insurance coverage prohibitively expensive for many. There is also the cost of the interlock program, fines, and legal representation (if chosen), not to mention the shame in knowing you have acted in an irresponsible manner that could have placed others at serious risk. Impaired driving is simply not worth it.
Count on Lane’s for trustworthy car insurance advice
One of the best reasons to choose Lane’s Insurance for your auto insurance is that we offer some of the best insurance support in the industry. You can always count on the brokers at Lane’s to provide you with all the information you need about your coverage and to be there for you should you ever have to file a claim.