Drugs now equal to alcohol for impaired driving charges

Ontario also hikes penalties

ONTARIO—Effective last Sunday, the province has brought in penalties for drug-impaired driving that match those already in place for drunk drivers.

Drivers under the influence of drugs will now face the following penalties: a $180 penalty; an immediate licence 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; a possible 90-day licence suspension and a seven-day vehicle impoundment following further testing by a drug recognition expert at a police station; and mandatory education or treatment programs, and installation of an ignition interlock device in their vehicle, for drivers with two or more licence suspensions involving alcohol or drugs within a 10-year period (the previous time frame was five years).

Community Services Officer Constable Steve Hart explained that should an officer give a standardized field test to a driver that has been pulled over and that officer becomes suspicious that the driver is under the influence of drugs, they can call for a drug recognition expert for further evaluation.

These new measures were introduced as part of the Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act last year. In addition to these penalties, impaired driving can lead to criminal charges which could ultimately result in a loss of licence, additional fines and jail time. 

Manitoulin has specially trained drug recognition experts available for all three police forces. 

“Whether it’s drugs or alcohol, impaired driving is never okay,” Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation, said in a press release. “Not only do you face tough penalties, but you risk your life and endanger everyone around you. It’s not worth the risk. If you’re not sober, don’t get behind the wheel.”

“The OPP’s Drug Recognition Evaluator (DRE) officers are highly trained to detect drivers who are impaired by drugs, as are frontline officers trained to conduct Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST),” explained OPP Chief Superintendent Chuck Cox, Commander, Highway Safety Division. “Through our DRE and SFST Programs, the OPP is as committed as ever to reducing the risk these drivers pose on Ontario roads.”

According to the Office of the Chief Coroner, 39 percent of drivers killed on Ontario’s roads in 2013 had either drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol in their system.

Drug-impaired driving collisions in Ontario had an estimated social cost of $612 million in 2013.

“Our job is to promote motoring safety and this is just another tool for us to use,” Constable Hart added.

The Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act was passed on June 2, 2015. It also included tougher penalties for distracted driving and “dooring” cyclists, as well as new rules for school crossings and pedestrian crossovers.