By Alfa · May 19, 2004 ·
  1. Alfa

    Local News - New federal legislation may put drivers at risk of being
    punished if they've smoked up before getting behind the wheel.

    Port Hope Police Chief Ron Hoath says the new legislation which would
    result in drug tests if deemed necessary -- through saliva urine or blood
    -- has many pluses in a day in age where drug use, be it prescription or
    illegal, is becoming more and more common.

    "I think it's a good move," he said.

    Currently in Port Hope, like all across Canada, police have no way of
    determining if a driver has been using drugs before driving -- a form of
    impairment that can be just as dangerous as driving while under the
    influence of alcohol.

    "It's a real problem," he said, pointing out that marijuana, for example,
    is a danger alone, but when combined with even a few drinks is even worse
    because it intensifies any effects from the amount of alcohol consumed.

    Police are noticing people are drinking, but sometimes sense they may be on
    drugs as well.

    When this happens, he said, the level of alcohol in a person's system may
    still be below the legal limit, but the drug makes them very impaired and
    not much can be done legally about it.

    "The officers are finding more and more people are under the influence of
    something," he said, noting that if it's passed, the legislation would help
    get these dangerous drivers off the road.

    The federal government wants to train police to recognize the symptoms of
    impairment so they can conduct roadside tests and then proceed where
    appropriate to saliva, urine or blood testing.

    A variety of legal and illegal substances fall under the category of drugs,
    but the question has been raised as to whether or not a driver under the
    influence of prescription medications should be treated the same as a
    driver on pot or cocaine.

    As far as Chief Hoath is concerned, anyone one taking prescription drugs
    that could cause drowsiness or any other similar side affects should not be

    Another issue being considered by the federal government is the fact that
    some drugs can be detected in the body long after their effect has worn off.

    The proposed legislation has not been discussed by the local police
    services board, however Chief Hoath said he believes it would be welcomed
    with open arms, despite costs for training and equipment costs.

    A 2003 Ontario study showed 15 per cent of students in Grades 10 to 13 who
    had a driver's license reported driving within an hour after consuming two
    or more drinks during the previous year. Even more, 20 per cent, reported
    driving within an hour after using cannabis.

    Similarly, a 1996 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.
    S. Department of Transportation study showed that drugs were used by 10 to
    22 per cent of drivers involved in crashes, often in combination with alcohol.

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