Legislation came into effect yesterday in Ontario that imposes the same sort of consequences for those driving under the influence of drugs as those driving under the influence of alcohol. The penalties are similar to what you may know as Roadside Suspensions and include a three day license suspension for a first occurrence of failing a field sobriety test. The suspensions increase to seven days for a second occurrence and 30 for a third. If motorists are taken to a police station for further evaluation by a drug recognition expert, licenses can be suspended for 90 days and vehicles impounded for seven days.
The Criminal Code provides that it is an offence to operate a vehicle while your ability to do so is impaired by alcohol, a drug or a combination of alcohol and a drug. There is a further section in the Criminal Code which makes it an offence to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration in excess of 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. There is not currently a similar section of the Criminal Code dealing with drugs, rather prosecution for drug impaired driving requires evidence of behavioural impairment. In 2008 Parliament enacted legislation which provided police with new investigative tools to help them detect drivers who were impaired by the use of drugs. These are the Drug Recognition experts referred to in the new Ontario legislation. The tools that they can use to determine impairment include a series of tests to determine whether the individual was impaired and the most likely class or classes of drugs responsible for the impairment. The evaluation can include analysis of blood, urine or oral fluid to determine the presence of drugs.
It will take time to see how the new legislation in Ontario holds up to the scrutiny of the courts and to see whether BC enacts similar legislation. Drugged driving is known to be dangerous and to be a contributor to crashes on our roads. Legislation like this has the potential to increase the safety of our roads for all users.