While deaths due to drunk driving have declined in Saskatchewan over the past few years, a considerable number of impaired drivers are still caught each month. To put this into perspective, the province saw 21 impaired driving-related deaths and 332 injuries in the year 2019.
While most people are aware of the dangers of drunk driving, thanks to long-running awareness and prevention campaigns for the same, not many are aware that the consumption of drugs such as cannabis and cocaine also seriously impair drivers and put them at a much greater risk of getting into an accident.
These drivers increase risks not only for themselves but for fellow drivers and pedestrians as well. With the aim of reducing and preventing all forms of impaired driving, the Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) launched a mobile drug and alcohol testing unit.
With the new unit, officers will have the ability to process tests at the scene thereby making them more efficient. Suspected impaired drivers will be tested on-site, and release documents will be provided at the scene to sober drivers or caregivers.
At the launch, Troy Cooper, Saskatoon Police Chief, emphasized the importance of on-site testing. He said, “Our officers require special training to test for drugs and alcohol, and it’s essential to understand that in such cases time is of the essence. These tests are most efficient when conducted at the site of incidence as inebriation only decreases with time.”
Moreover, while previous mobile units allowed for only the testing of alcohol levels, this unit enables more than that. It is equipped with a breathalyzer as well as a device that tests for THC and cocaine — equipment that was previously only available at police stations in the city.
This move comes as news to cannabis connoisseurs who previously went undetected when tested with breathalyzers in spite of being high and behind the wheel.
“Like drinking, drug consumption affects your attention, reaction time, motor coordination and depth perception – all of which affect you while driving. Driving after consuming drugs like recreational cannabis and others makes you just as much of a risk on the road as a drunk driver. It’s a threat to your own life as well as to that of others,” added Cooper.
The mobile unit will, however, serve as more than just an addition of armoury for the SPS in its fight against impaired driving. It will also be stationed at community events to send out a strong message against driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. At the same time, it will also serve to educate the public and youth at large about the ill effects of driving while impaired.
With collective actions on various fronts – not just for alcohol but drug consumption too, here’s hoping a cultural change is underway. Here’s to safer driving and safer roads!