NEW DRUG TEST LEGISLATION HAS BENEFITS: HOATH
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.