Impaired driving is impaired driving, whether the impairment is by alcohol or by drug.
The Criminal Code of Canada does not differentiate between alcohol-impaired driving offences and drug-impaired driving offences. Driving while impaired by any combination of drugs or alcohol is a criminal offence, and has been since 1925. In fact, over time, the Criminal Code has evolved in such a manner as to enhance the ability of law enforcement to detect drug impairment.
Impairment by alcohol or by drugs affects information-processing, hand-eye coordination, judgment, concentration, comprehension, visual acuity and reaction time. These effects are readily recognizable and cannot be concealed by a motorist. If suspected impaired driving is witnessed, a traffic stop will be initiated by Halton Regional Police Service officers.
The Criminal Code empowers police officers to arrest for impaired operation or to conduct a Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) to establish additional grounds to support an arrest.
Post-arrest, an additional 12-step evaluation will be conducted by an accredited Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). If the DRE officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a suspect is impaired by drugs, they are then authorized to demand a blood, urine or saliva sample from the suspect. A positive DRE test will also result in a 90 day Administrative Driver’s Licence suspension as well.
The DRE evaluation is one method available to police through which criminal charges relating to drug-impaired driving may be laid under the Criminal Code.
Current penalties for drug-impaired driving range from a $1,000 fine on a first offence to 120 days of imprisonment on a third or subsequent offence. Drug-impaired driving that results in death could result in life imprisonment.
There is a prevalent misunderstanding amongst some adolescents that driving high "isn’t that dangerous" and even "makes one a better driver". In fact, driving high impairs all the cognitive abilities needed for safe driving. Adolescents who possess a G1, G2, M1 or M2 licence – and all persons under age 22 – must also adhere to a zero drug level while driving. Failing to do so will result in a licence suspension, vehicle tow, additional MTO fees, a $110 fine and a further 30 day licence suspension on conviction for young drivers (<22yrs).
Impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada. Community safety is a shared responsibility, and we encourage residents and visitors to continue to work with us to reduce impaired driving. Impaired driving is considered a crime in progress. If you witness suspected impaired driving, please call 9-1-1 to report it.