Detecting doped-up drivers

A number of police officers from across Saskatchewan, including members of the Prince Albert Police Service, are receiving training to learn how to recognize drivers impaired by drugs.

Unlike impaired driving due to alcohol, there is no roadside-screening device which can indicate whether someone has been driving under the influence of a drug to the point where they have become impaired.

“We can test for the presence of drugs, but to determine the impairment, that part we don’t have,” said RCMP Cpl. Brian Ferguson, the Provincial Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) coordinator. “That’s why we go through the evaluation procedure. It’s the only tool we have that’s current to determine impairment by drugs when you’re driving.”

When a trained and certified police officer suspects a person is impaired by drugs, they follow a 12-step procedure to perform an evaluation on the suspected impaired driver.

The Opinion of the DRE is the officer’s opinion based on his training, experience and the test results. While they use a drug matrix, they also rely heavily on their training and experience.

After the evaluation, the toxicological sample is sent to a forensic lab for analysis to confirm or refute the findings of the officer. Presence of a drug is not sufficient evidence to lay a charge, though. The evaluation must show impairment, signs and symptoms consistent with a drug and the finding must be supported by the toxicological test.

The procedure is authorized for use in Canada to evaluate suspected drug-impaired drivers.

For more on this story, please see the March 10 print or e-edition of the Daily Herald.

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