Mandatory alcohol screening took effect Dec. 18. (File photo by BLACK PRESS)

Mandatory alcohol screening took effect Dec. 18. (File photo by BLACK PRESS)

25 drivers in Victoria pulled for drug impairment since cannabis legalized

Little change seen in number of impaired drivers since new laws enacted

In the past three months federal laws on impaired driving have changed significantly, but changes to enforcement haven’t been as extreme as some feared.

On Oct. 17 cannabis was legalized and legislation was added to account for driving while high. Since Dec. 18, stricter laws focusing on drinking and driving were also enacted. These changes include mandatory Breathalyzer compliance, a two-hour window within which people must prove their sobriety, and harsher penalties if found impaired.

On paper, these stricter laws hold potential for abuse; a sober person could theoretically have their driving reported, go home and have a drink, and then have an officer show up at their door to demand a breath test. The onus would then be on them to prove that within two hours before driving they were sober.

READ MORE: Stricter drunk driving laws to take effect across Canada

Comparatively, testing for THC levels from using cannabis is also hard to determine without a blood test, something most traffic enforcement officers won’t carry or be trained to use.

“It really is a disturbing scheme when altogether,” said Sarah Leamon, a criminal defence lawyer who specializes in impaired driving. “Will it be subject to Charter challenges? Yeah, absolutely.”

READ MORE: Canada’s revamped impaired driving law brews ‘potential for injustice’

That being said, these legal changes have yet to see a large amount of difference on the ground.

According to the Victoria Police Department, since Oct. 17 officers have taken 25 drivers off the road for drug impairment, though it’s not clear if these drugs were cannabis or illicit drugs.

In the same time frame, 91 people were taken off the road due to alcohol impairment, numbers that VicPD spokesperson Const. Matt Rutherford said are not grossly different than usual.

The biggest changes they’ve seen, he added, is in the department’s training.

“We have more people training in both standard field sobriety testing (SFST) and we have more drug recognition experts (DRE) throughout our front line staff,” Rutherford said in an emailed statement.

ALSO READ: Victoria man disputes charges of allegedly driving while in possession of pot

When asked how police might handle enforcing mandatory breath tests, Rutherford noted that unless it was part of an active situation police are unlikely to go door to door to see if someone has been drinking.

“We’re too busy… we’re not just going to go inside a bar and test people to see if they’ve been driving in the past two hours, ” he said. “The point is to get drunk drivers off the road, and we conduct our rights to do so as the law allows.”

Leamon also noted that she hasn’t seen a significant changes in police enforcement since the laws were enacted, but was still skeptical that any abuse of power wouldn’t happen somewhere in the country.

“I guess we’re trusting the state not to overstep their authority,” Leamon said. “Not that they’ve done that before.”

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


Send a Tweet: @NicoleCrescenzi

Like us on Facebook  

impaired driving

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Island Health has confirmed the first long term care facility outbreak in Greater Victoria at Veterans Memorial Lodge in Saanich. (Google Maps)
Island Health records first long-term care COVID outbreak in Greater Victoria

Veterans Memorial Lodge in Saanich confirms one positive staff member

Itty, a Siamese cat, has been missing since a house fire in Victoria’s Fernwood neighbourhood on Friday, Nov. 27. Her owner says she has white fur with blonde and grey markings. (Facebook/ROAM)
Cat goes missing after house fire in Fernwood neighbourhood

‘Itty’ has white fur, blonde and grey markings and blue eyes

An aerial view over Oak Bay. (Black Press Media File Photo)
An aerial view over Oak Bay and the Marina. Oak Bay residents pay the highest taxes on Vancouver Island. Don Denton/Black Press
Oak Bay secondary suites study considers units old and new

Secondary suites draft report due in new year

Westcoast Impressions plans to organize a COVID-19 friendly version of the event in 2021 at the Mary Winspear Centre after having cancelled the 2020 version against the backdrop of pandemic. The opening night of the 2019 Sidney Street Market featured more than 150 vendors lined along Beacon Avenue. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sidney Street Market plans for 2021 return at Mary Winspear Centre

Tentative plan calls for the event’s return to Beacon Avenue after COVID-19 pandemic

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

Most Read