RIDE pro­gram tar­gets stoned driv­ers

The Delhi News-Record - - NEWS - MONTE SONNEBERG

Po­lice at im­paired-driv­ing check­points this hol­i­day sea­son ex­pect to smell a lot of pot smoke now that mar­i­juana for recre­ational pur­poses is le­gal.

It’s a new chal­lenge for po­lice, one of many aris­ing from the Trudeau gov­ern­ment’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to drive crim­i­nals out of the black mar­ket for mar­i­juana.

How­ever, the Nor­folk OPP cau­tion mo­torists – even des­ig­nated driv­ers – that they will be tick­eted if they roll up to a RIDE check­point with smoke pour­ing out the win­dows.

“That’s a no- no,” Insp. Joe Varga, head of the Nor­folk OPP, said at the for­mal launch of the 2018 Fes­tive RIDE cam­paign in Sim­coe on Nov. 22.

“You’re only al­lowed to have cannabis in a ve­hi­cle if it’s in a sealed con­tainer un­avail­able to the driver.”

Varga said it is only com­mon sense that pas­sen­gers can’t smoke mar­i­juana in the pres­ence of a driver.

Psy­chotropic chem­i­cals are present in sec­ond-hand smoke that can in­ter­fere with a mo­torist’s abil­ity to drive. The fine un­der the Cannabis Act for hav­ing un­sealed mar­i­juana avail­able to a driver is $215.

Front-line of­fi­cers have taken ex­tra train­ing in re­cent months to rec­og­nize the signs and symp­toms of mo­torists driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence of cannabis.

Most ev­ery of­fi­cer on pa­trol is qual­i­fied to make this call. They will put driv­ers through a so­bri­ety test be­fore de­cid­ing whether they should be charged.

Blood­shot eyes that come with smok­ing mar­i­juana, along with its dis­tinc­tive smell, will trig­ger a sim­ple test of bal­ance, co-or­di­na­tion and the abil­ity to multi-task. If, in the of­fi­cer’s es­ti­ma­tion, the driver is im­paired, they will be ar­rested and served with a court date.

“Driv­ers who con­sume cannabis and think they can avoid de­tec­tion need to think again,” Varga said. “The OPP have a strong set of tools and skills that en­able us to take al­co­hol- and drug- im­paired driv­ers off the road. Driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence is a se­ri­ous of­fence. Not a drop, not a drag – say nope to dope.”

The OPP al­ready have a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence in this area. Dur­ing last year’s Fes­tive RIDE pro­gram, 29 driv­ers in On­tario were charged with drug im­pair­ment. The fines and penalties for driv­ing stoned are the same for driv­ing im­paired un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol.

As with pre­vi­ous Fes­tive RIDE pro­grams, this one ends the day af­ter New Year’s.

RIDE check­points in Nor­folk and Haldimand nabbed a com­bined 13 im­paired driv­ers last year.

Dur­ing the last Fes­tive RIDE pro­gram, the Nor­folk OPP mounted 73 check­points. Check­points can ap­pear any­where at any time of the day with­out warn­ing.

Even mo­torists who con­sider them­selves re­spon­si­ble drinkers have to be alert. The OPP will levy three-day li­cence sus­pen­sions for mo­torists found driv­ing with a blood-al­co­hol con­tent be­tween 50 mil­ligrams and 80 mil­ligrams per 100 millil­itres of blood.

The OPP across On­tario charged 587 driv­ers with im­paired dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son last year. Mo­torists who en­counter a sus­pected im­paired driver on the road can alert the OPP by call­ing 911.

MONTE SONNENBERG/ DELHI NEWS RECORD

The Nor­folk OPP’s an­nual Fes­tive RIDE pro­gram was launched Nov. 22 in Sim­coe and runs un­til Jan. 2. Among the first to pass through on the Queensway West in Sim­coe was Daryl Dankwardt of Sim­coe. At right is Insp. Joe Varga, chief of the Nor­folk OPP.

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