MADD Canada evaluates testing measures for impaired driving

Nov 17, 2022

Earlier in October, MADD Canada, a charitable organization with a mandate to stop impaired driving, consulted with police services across Canada to conduct a national scan, titled A Review of the Enforcement Level of Bill C-46 and Canada’s Impaired Driving Testing Regime. According to MADD, the scan was aimed to identify potential deficits in the use and implementation of the existing testing regime, as well as to provide insights and suggest improvements.

Specifically, the national scan was carried out to assess the way detection tools such as mandatory roadside alcohol testing (MAS) and oral fluid tests are currently used to detect impaired driving and to propose improvements for driver detection and deterrence. As part of the scan, 38 police stations with catchment areas covering about 70% of Canada’s population completed the questionnaire.

The main conclusions and recommendations from the National Scan are as follows:

· Police should work towards the ultimate goal of using MAS at every lawful traffic stop where the officer has an Approved Screening Device (ASD) breathalyzer.

· A standardized system should be used for tracking the use and results of detection tools should be put in place to support decision-makers and the police in decision-making and the most efficient use of resources;

· Federal and provincial/territorial government resources must be directed to providing police with better drug testing equipment and officer training; and

· Measures must be taken to reduce waiting times for blood collection and laboratory analysis.

According to research studies, implementing MAS programs can be effective for reducing of alcohol-related accidental deaths and injuries. Currently, police forces have focused on identifying specific barriers to the use of MAS, such as the lack of a clear policy among police services as to when MAS should be used, insufficient ASD devices, and a lack of awareness of MAS among the Canadian public. Unfortunately, these issues have resulted in a public reluctance to comply with legitimate MAS requirements.

“Current usage rates of MAS are promising, but there is a lot of room for improvement,” said Mr. Dumschat in his interview with Ontario News. “To reap the full benefits of MAS, we believe all jurisdictions should work towards implementing the widespread use of MAS by making it the standard at all transit stops. This requires additional resources from police and governments for training and equipment.”

In addition, the scan showed that more can be done to increase the use of curbside oral fluid testing; however, MADD identified several “roadblocks” to be removed first, including the shortage of trained officers, concerns about the devices, including the ability to detect only a limited number of drugs, the temperature ranges in which the devices can operate, and the costs associated with the devices.

“The information we got from the scan is consistent with what we’ve been told anecdotally, which is that roadside oral fluid testing is not currently used on a large scale,” said Mr. Dumschat.

Moreover, the scan highlighted another key issue of variation in the way the police track data on MAS use and drug testing operations. As a result, MADD Canada recommends adopting a standard reporting structure for more comprehensive and consistent statistic analysis, allowing better decision-making regarding resource allocation and distribution.