Ontario Provincial Police patrolling Lennox and Addington County have announced they will be using mandatory alcohol-screening tests at most Festive R.I.D.E. programmes this holiday season. Such tests will allow police to test a driver’s breath for the presence of alcohol during any lawful stop, without reasonable suspicion. The legislature permitting this type of screening came into effect in December 2018, with the federal government passing an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada.
“We want people to know that the change is occurring and they’re going to see it in L&A County, so they’re not surprised,” said Inspector Scott Semple, commander of the Lennox and Addington County detachment. Moreover, he added that this year, the entire OPP East Region is being encouraged to use this power.
“In other jurisdictions around the world where they’ve done mandatory testing, they’ve seen a dramatic decrease in impaired-caused fatalities,” Semple stated. “People know that it doesn’t matter — I can’t try to talk my way out of it and get through. You’re getting tested no matter what.”
In addition, Semple said the law acts as a deterrent for individuals who consider drinking alcohol and driving, and accordingly, OPP will be conducting such tests regularly at Festive R.I.D.E. programmes.
“I don’t want people to be surprised when they go through a R.I.D.E. programme and they’re given the test when they haven’t been asked if they’ve been drinking,” Semple said.
Semple added that although many Lennox and Addington County residents may have thought the OPP haven’t been enforcing impaired driving rules of the road during the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce contact with others, this is not true.
In fact, mandatory screenings are safer for police officers because they do not need to be physically close to the individual being tested.
Furthermore, Semple stated that the OPP has been apprehending more impaired drivers than ever, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Const. Scott Woodburn, OPP traffic management officer and drug recognition expert officer, has also explained that individual variations in metabolism and physical size make it difficult to have a uniform answer in terms of how much one can drink before driving within the legal alcohol blood limit.
“We get asked it often: How many drinks can I have and drive? Nobody can give you that answer because it is very subjective and really depends on the person,” Semple said.
Importantly, Semple added that since the breathalyzer test can accurately determine blood alcohol levels, individuals arrested for impaired driving should not lie about how many drinks they had. “I don’t know why people do that,” he said. “We’re going to verify it with science how much alcohol is in your system. We have the tools to do that.”