Canada is in the midst of legalization marijuana for personal use, and authorities and insurance companies are attempting to tackle issues of policing drivers who drive impaired under the influence of drugs. Questions have been raised over whether police are equipped to deal with drug impaired motorists, but Ontario is beginning a punishment that it hopes will deter most potential offenders.
Starting this Monday (Oct. 3), Ontario police will start issuing three-day roadside license suspensions for drivers operating under the influence of drugs. This means local police forces around the province have the power of law to hand down punishments on the spot.
The ability has been handed down to police as part of the Transportation Statute Law Amendment Act (Making Ontario’s Roads Safer). This is Bill 31 and it was passed on June 2, 2015.
In a press release sent out on Wednesday by the Ontario transportation ministry, said offending drivers will get “an immediate license suspension of three days for the first occurrence, seven days for the second occurrence and 30 days for the third and subsequent occurrences upon failure of a roadside sobriety test.”
“Under impaired driving, Ontario is one of only three jurisdictions in Canada that currently has no sanctions for drug-impaired driving,” said Bob Bailey, Progressive Conservative MPP for Sarnia-Lambton, in December, 2014 during a debate on Bill 31 in the Ontario legislature.
The Highway Traffic Act already provided “administrative driver’s license suspensions where a person is found to be driving a motor vehicle or operating a vessel with a blood alcohol concentration of over 50 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood or over 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood, or where a person fails or refuses to provide a sample, perform physical co-ordination tests or submit to an evaluation under section 254 of the Criminal Code,” the government stated in an explanatory note to Bill 31. “Under section 48 (the over .05 section), the license is suspended for three days for a first suspension, seven days for a second suspension and 30 days for a third or subsequent suspension. Under section 48.3 (the over .08 and failure to complete tests section), the license is suspended for 90 days.”
Two new additions to the Highway Traffic Act now “mirror” the existing sections for drunk drivers, “where a person is driving a motor vehicle or operating a vessel while impaired by a drug or by a combination of a drug and alcohol.”
During legislative committee hearings on Bill 31, MPPs heard from speakers including Scott Watson, manager of government relations for Parachute – a national charity focused on injury prevention.
“I think that next frontier, in terms of impaired driving and drugs, is roadside testing,” Watson told the Standing Committee on General Government, in March, 2015, in reply to a question from Jeff Yurek, PC MPP for Elgin-Middlesex London. “I know working with our partners at MTO, there are a couple of things in the pipeline that will help our officers administer roadside tests for drug-impaired driving. I hope there’s an emphasis on that going forward, in terms of something that will stand up harder in court. Right now, this bill gives a little more discretion, in terms of determining impairedness, but I think that’s the way to go, in terms of quantifying an impaired drugged driver.”