According to statistics made available by the Canadian government, of the drivers who die in vehicle crashes, 40% test positive for drugs and more than the 33% test positive for alcohol. Whereas impaired driving is a malaise, it notes, driving high is one that is growing.
What the law looks for – Impared Driving
Cannabis is composed of several chemical compounds, called cannabinoids. Of these, the most relevant for testing drug-impaired driving is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, THC as it is better known. THC is the psychoactive component of cannabis, responsible for the ‘high’ and is, therefore, of most interest to law and order authorities.
Police stopping drivers by the roadside to test for cannabis-impaired driving will measure the THC concentration in blood, after making an on-the-spot judgment if the driver may have been driving high. A driver testing positive for between 2 and 5 nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood will invite a fine of up to $1000 under the new summary offence. Anything over 5ng/ml and the offence falls in the same category of drug-impaired driving as cocaine, LSD and methamphetamine, under the new hybrid offenses scheme. The scale shows the lack of tolerance towards drug-impaired driving.
The Canadian Center on Substance Abuse states unequivocally, “research evidence leaves little doubt that psychoactive prescription drugs can adversely affect cognitive and motor functions involved in the operation of a motor vehicle.”
Limitations of Roadside Drug Testing
Nevertheless, car accidents and personal injury caused due to impaired driving are set to bring additional challenges for claims and lawsuits. CTV News reports on the ‘Dräger Drug Test 5000’, a roadside saliva test which checks for the presence of THC (marijuana), opiates, cocaine and much more besides. A potential drawback: saliva “tested positive for THC even though it had been 10 hours” since smoking marijuana.
Mobile testing methods, particularly those carried by the police for testing roadside if drivers have been driving high, have some way to go before they become incontestable. This is reflected best in the fragmentation and lack of consensus between police forces around Canada about which tests they will use. The Globe and Mail reveals, as late as August 2018, just a few months before recreational use of marijuana was allowed:
Ottawa approved the Draeger DrugTest 5000, a device that allows officers to test driver’s saliva for THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. Right now, it’s the only approved device. But police in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax – along with the provincial force in Quebec – say they haven’t purchased the device.
There is a potential for drivers and road users at fault for accidents will be able to mitigate their liability by claiming improper results in police tests – potentially stultifying settlement talks or lengthening trials.
If you or someone you know has been injured or suffered loss of property due to the actions of a drug-impaired driver, get in touch with the Will Davidson LLP team of lawyers immediately. Marijuana and other accidents caused due to drug-impairment require rapid intervention to ensure that the party at fault is not able to scuttle a claim by delaying collection of material evidence.