OTTAWA, October 3, 2016 – Tomorrow, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Claude Carignan, is tabling legislation to beef up drug-impaired driving laws to prevent the loss of innocent lives and injuries that occur in Canada every year.
More robust drug-impaired driving detection tools have been needed for quite some time. Canada is already lagging behind a bevy of countries around the world that have roadside drug screening tests, including some in the U.S, Australia, Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, and the United Kingdom.
The technology to determine drug-impaired driving exists, and many jurisdictions have adopted roadside drug screening tests in order to lower the rate of drug-impaired driving. Senator Carignan’s proposed legislation would amend the Criminal Code to give police the tools to screen drivers with the use of a non-invasive saliva roadside device. The device would quickly target the presence of selected illicit drugs.
“Consuming drugs and getting behind the wheel of a car is a serious crime that is being underreported because the lack of tools that police need to detect drug-impaired drivers,” said Senator Carignan. “This legislation is being introduced to better protect Canadians and their families, deter the act of drug-impaired driving and make it more efficient for law enforcement to stop and investigate impaired driving before tragedies happen.”
According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, just as many drivers died in road collisions after using drugs as those who had been drinking. MADD statistics concur, finding 614 road fatalities in 2012 where a driver had drugs present in their system, compared to 476 fatalities where a driver had alcohol in their system.
In 2013, according to Government of Canada statistics, 97% of prosecutions caused by impaired driving in Canada were due to alcohol, as opposed to only 3% drugs, due to the fact that there are currently no roadside screening devices to identify drug-impaired drivers.
As it is, current roadside tests, which are based on behavioral observations by police officers, cannot always provide quick and conclusive results that clearly indicate the absence or presence of drugs when impairment might be detected by a police officer.
Canada must act swiftly to deter more injuries and deaths on the road due to drug-impaired driving. Senator Carignan remains hopeful that his Bill will be strongly supported.
“The Murdered or Missing Persons’ Families’ Association (MMPFA) supports all legal coercive measures for drunk and drug-impaired driving. Consequences on families and victims are disastrous,” said Nancy Roy, Director General of the Association. “We have to punish the guilty more fairly in relation to the consequences they cause when they get impaired and decide to drive. These offending drivers must take responsibility for the irreparable damage they cause.”
« Drug-impaired driving is a scourge that too often goes unnoticed and regrettably, the devastating impacts on our roads are underestimated. Several victims have paid the price of careless drug-impaired driving with their lives,” said Lise Lebel, President of the Fondation Katherine Beaulieu. “This could have been avoided if adequate measures had been in place, as they are for drunk driving. Police currently have few effective ways to catch individuals who make the deliberate choice to drive after taking drugs. This Bill will reset the justice pendulum so that the problem of drug-impaired driving is controlled as effectively as drunk driving. »
“We truly believe that this Bill must be implemented because it will hold drug impaired drivers accountable for their actions,” says Markita Kaulius, President of Families for Justice.
“We have seen too many people losing their lives due to drug impaired driving. The police need better tools to keep drug impaired drivers off the road before they kill or hurt others. We hope that this Bill will be an added deterrent. As a society, we require new responses to new challenges. Better detecting the presence of drugs among drivers will help keep them off of our roadways and keep Canadians safe from harm as everyone deserves the right to get home safely at the end of the day.”
Office of the Honourable Senator Claude Carignan, P.C., Leader of the Opposition in the Senate
613-992-0240 – email@example.com
Drug-Impaired Driving Legislation
This legislation responds to serious concerns expressed from various law enforcement agencies, experts and victims’ organizations urging for improving law enforcement’s capacity to detect drug-impaired driving.
In 2008, police were given the authority to demand a Standard Field Sobriety Test (SFST) if they had grounds to suspect drug impairment in a driver. Prior to these amendments, they had no authority to test drivers for drug impairment. However, current roadside tests, which are based on behavioral observations, cannot provide quick and conclusive results that clearly indicate the absence or presence of drugs when impairment is detected by a police officer. Therefore, despite these changes, drug-impaired cases are under-reported because of the absence of an effective drug detecting tool that allows for quick and objective results.
Why this legislation is important:
There is compelling evidence that illegal drug use and driving, results in impaired cognitive functions—slower reaction times, difficulty concentrating, drowsy and/or disoriented feelings, difficulty judging distances and making decisions, problems staying in one lane, greater difficulty maintaining a constant speed, and increased collision risk.
MADD Canada found there were 614 road fatalities in 2012 where drivers had drugs present in their system, compared to 476 fatalities where alcohol was present. In 2013, according to Government of Canada statistics, 97% of prosecutions caused by impaired driving in Canada were due to alcohol, as opposed to only 3% from drugs, due to the fact that there are currently no roadside screening devices to identify drug-impaired drivers.
Roadside oral fluid detection offers an objective and time-efficient alternative for the most commonly-used illicit drugs. As it is, drug-impaired numbers are under-reported because of the limited tools available for law enforcement to quickly detect the presence of drugs in the body. Also, this leads to drug-impaired drivers often bypassing tests due to the unavailability of Drug Recognition Experts, time restrictions on the tests or second guessing the presence of drugs in a driver, leading to under-reporting of drug-impaired driving.
Law enforcement agencies in Canada lack the legislative tools to use roadside drug detection devices. These devices are used in Australia and European Union countries where police use roadside oral fluid drug-screening tests to detect the presence of drugs.
To enable law enforcement authorities to better detect and deter drug impaired drivers on our roads, this Bill would change the Criminal Code to allow the use of an approved roadside screening device to ascertain the presence of a drug in the body of a person operating a vehicle. It would also allow samples of bodily substances—be it oral fluid, blood, or urine, as required—to be taken to determine the amount of a drug in a driver’s system based on an analysis with an approved screening device.
In March 2011, the United Nations’ Commission on Narcotic Drugs passed Resolution 54/2, underscoring the importance of prevention and enforcement measures that tackle the phenomenon of drug-affected driving while increasing road safety.
“MADD Canada found there were 614 road fatalities in 2012 where a driver had drugs present in their system, compared to 476 fatalities where a driver had alcohol in their system.” (Total Crash Deaths Involving Alcohol and/or Drugs in Canada, By Jurisdiction, 2012)
According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, in 2010 nearly as many drivers died in road crashes after using drugs (34.2%) as those who had been drinking (39.1%). (CCSA,http://www.ccsa.ca/Eng/topics/Impaired-Driving/Drug-Impaired-Driving/Pages/default.aspx)
In 2012, 363 out of 907 (40.0%) of fatally injured drivers in Canada were tested positive for drugs. (Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, Alcohol and Drug-Crash Problem in Canada, 2012 Report, p. 30)
According to a study from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, “a number of youth believed that cannabis is safe and makes people better drivers by increasing their focus.” (Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, What Canadian Youth Think about Cannabis,http://www.ccsa.ca/Resource%20Library/CCSA-What-Canadian-Youth-Think-about-Cannabis-Report-in-Short-2013-en.pdf)
Bios of Stakeholders at the Press Conference:
The Fondation Katherine Beaulieu was established following the death of Katherine Beaulieu. Katherine’s story is sadly and certainly that of many other individuals. She had her entire life ahead of her; she was only 21 years old. The fate that awaited her drastically changed the lives of her family and her community. On May 3, 2010, Katherine died in a road accident. A severely impaired driver who was driving in the wrong direction on Highway 55 smashed into the young woman’s vehicle at full speed. The Fondation Katherine Beaulieu is dedicated to increasing public awareness of the consequences of driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs. The foundation achieves its objectives through various means. Its main activity is delivering presentations to businesses, organizations and, in particular, high schools. To date, more than 10,000 students have attended the presentation given by the victim’s mother, Lise Lebel.
The Murdered or Missing Persons’ Families’ Association (MMPFA) is a non-profit organization with the main task of breaking the isolation of victims’ families. It allows them to develop a relationship of solidarity and build bridges to the necessary resources of information and tools to help them rebuild their lives. The MMPFA’s objective is to ensure that every member of a crime victim’s family receives moral, psychological and legal support following the tragedy. It also helps the families get the recognition the need to benefit from fair and sufficient compensation to help them to deal with their grieving and loss, and continue their lives in better conditions. In addition, the MMPFA plays an advocacy role for the families with institutions and political authorities, and supports initiatives for violence and crime prevention.