According to a news release published by the RCMP on Prince Edward Island, a specialized unit made 52 impaired driving arrests in 2022. In addition, 43 of the drivers arrested were impaired by drugs, while eight drivers were impaired by alcohol, and one was charged with failure to provide a sample.
“I think it speaks to having a dedicated unit that is focused on this and their efforts really do help to try and make safer roads for all Islanders,” said Const. Gavin Moore, spokesperson for the provincial RCMP, in his interview with CBC News.
The Provincial Priority Unit (PPU) was created in 2020 to target impaired driving on the Island.
“[This] unit works in all corners of P.E.I. They also take care of patrols on boats in the summertime and are also an asset to be used in all kinds of other special events,” added Const. Gavin Moore. “Certainly impaired driving, as all Islanders could attest, is a priority and something that we all want to see action taken on.”
Due to the effective performance of the PPU, it will be expanded in 2023. According to the information released by the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, the budget for the PPU was increased by approximately $300,000 in 2023.
Moreover, the PPU has also partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada. “I think in this day and age when we’ve had so much education and public awareness around impaired driving, the risks, the consequences for those people who do choose to,” said Steve Sullivan, CEO of MADD Canada. “It’s always concerning when we see these kinds of numbers.”
In addition, Sullivan added that while many people are now aware of the risks of impaired driving due to alcohol, they are not aware of the risks of driving after using cannabis.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken to people who said I’m a better driver when I’m high, which is just not true,” he said. “We know that people who take cannabis and drive, their reactions are slower.”
Sullivan also the increase in cannabis-related impaired driving charges can be partially explained by more people getting caught.
“I think with the legalization of cannabis we’ve seen more and more police services increase their training,” he said. “The more you’re looking for it, the more [you will] find.”
In his interview with CBC News, Const. Stephen Duggan on the PPU said is one of the officers with the PPU said there is now a big focus on getting more officers across the province trained on drug recognition, within the RCMP and municipal detachments. Furthermore, this training has become more common since 2018 when the new impaired driving laws were introduced.
“It allowed for some changes in the law and then technologies advanced to the point now where roadside you can check for certain drugs outside of the alcohol,” said Const. Duggan.