Ottawa police say they’re ready for the festive season — and the dangerous driving that could come with it.
This year, they’re watching out for more drivers impaired by drugs.
“That’s a trend that’s been continuing in the past three or four years,” said Const. T.J. Jellinek of the police traffic unit. “We definitely anticipate with (marijuana) legalization coming in that the trend is going to continue to climb.”
And the increase isn’t the result of just one group.
“With impaired driving, there truly are no demographics,” Jellinek said. “It’s anyone legal to drive and all the way up to 80 or 90 years old. That’s one thing we notice: every time we do impaired (driving checks), we’ll get everyone from a 20-year-old university student to a 60-year-old who works for the government.”
“It affects everybody the same. Impaired driving has no boundaries.”
To deter impaired driving, Ottawa police organize RIDE (Reduced Impaired Driving Everywhere) programs several times a year, often during the holidays, halting every single car that comes through. Officers will administer sobriety tests if they believe a driver might be impaired.
The process for dealing with drivers impaired by drugs is similar to drunk-driving procedures, Jellinek said.
“Impaired is impaired, whether it’s by alcohol or by drugs. There are a few distinct characteristics that we would see with drugs that wouldn’t exist if it were alcohol, but in general it’s the same kind of impairment we’re looking for.
“We just perform two different tasks to find out,” he said. “One might be a roadside-screening device for alcohol; the other is a standard field sobriety test for drugs. Either way our goal is to determine impairment.”
The fields tests for drug impairment include three physical tests — eye-tracking, walking a straight line and standing on one foot — and drivers must carefully follow the instructions of the officer. If they fail the test, they will be arrested for impaired driving.
Jellinek is “very confident” in the effectiveness of the tests.
“They’re scientifically validated, they’ve been proven effective over many years and we’re very confident we can continue to use them to detect impaired drivers. In 2008 they passed legislation that standard field tests were mandatory — so a refusal to perform a standard field sobriety test is the same as refusing a roadside breath screening device.”
The Ottawa Police Service has been training its officers in dealing with drug impairment since 2011. It has also been co-operating with groups like MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), and Jellinek said the organization is “100 per cent on board with what we’re doing to make sure that we keep impaired drivers — both by drugs and alcohol — off the road.”
Source (with video): Ottawa Citizen