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With recreational marijuana now legal, police services hesitate on Ottawa’s preferred drug test

Impaired driving is a major risk factor on Canadian roads and with recreational marijuana now legal, road safety experts and personal injury lawyers are concerned about an influx of stoned motorists.

The federal government took several steps to allay safety concerns in the runup to legalization, including approving a saliva test for marijuana impairment: the Dräger DrugTest 5000. However, numerous police forces around the country, including the Ottawa Police Service, have declined to use the new device while others, including the Ontario Provincial Police, have yet to submit orders. Cost, effectiveness in cold weather, and the potential for false-positives and false-negatives are among the major concerns.

“From a cost perspective, they’re $6,000 each,” said Chief Charles Bordeleau of the Ottawa Police Service, according to the CBC. “The issue around keeping the swabs at a right temperature is problematic in our current climate.”

Both the Ottawa police and the OPP use a two-step protocol to identify driver impairment. First, a trained officer administers a roadside sobriety test; if the officer believes the driver is impaired, a drug recognition expert will perform more in-depth testing.

“We already have the tools to detect for impaired drivers,” OPP Highway Safety Division spokesperson Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said, per a different CBC article. “We’re going to continue to use those tools that we have. If more tools are made available to us, that’s something that will be a decision down the road.”

On October 16, CBC News reported that the OPP will purchase Dräger DrugTest 5000s.

“I have been told we will be purchasing some of these devices,” Sgt. Schmidt said. “I have not been told how many or where they’ll be deployed to. It’s still part of the procurement process.”

A 2016 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that Canada had the highest percentage of traffic deaths linked to alcohol impairment among 19 wealthy countries. Personal injury lawyers in Ontario are concerned that marijuana legalization will have a compounding effect on what has been a major source of serious automotive accidents for decades. As such, the means by which Ontario police prevent impaired driving is less critical than the end; whether via traditional sobriety testing or through the Dräger DrugTest 5000, what matters is that police are able to detect, detain, and charge drug- and alcohol-impaired drivers.

If you’ve been injured in an automotive accident caused by impaired driving or otherwise, contact Will Davidson LLP today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced team of Ontario personal injury lawyers can prosvide guidance and advice as you navigate the legal system and work towards your recovery.


Image credit: Oregon Department of Transportation/Wikimedia Commons

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