Don’t drive drunk or high. It’s a message we put out ad nauseum, yet our data shows that we are catching more impaired drivers today than we did two years ago. Here’s the funny thing about this data: we could reduce our data on impaired driving to zero if we wanted to — we would simply stop enforcing the laws. We could be the only city in Canada with zero impaired drivers on our roads, at least according to statistics.
So when I look at the increase in those numbers, I don’t necessarily see it as a negative. What I do see is Delta police officers catching more impaired drivers than they used to. But why?
Enter the legalization of cannabis. This new law brought with it an influx of impaired driving public education in the hopes that we could deter people from consuming cannabis and getting behind the wheel. But what also came with these new laws was an entire curriculum on roadside sobriety testing for our police officers.
DPD officers have become far more sophisticated in their ability to detect and prove impaired driving at roadside with or without a screening device. Standard field sobriety testing and drug recognition expert training are new tools for our front line. Police are out looking more diligently for impaired drivers because of legal cannabis, but what they are finding is more alcohol-impaired drivers.
There is a collective frustration at the DPD when we hear about the number of impaired drivers that were caught over a weekend. From our patrol section to traffic section to public affairs, many of our staff work towards keeping our roads safe from drunk drivers as a part of their daily duties. Some days, they feel as though their work is futile.
I can tell you it is not.
Perhaps two years ago, some of these drivers would not have been investigated the way they are today. I believe the enhanced training our officers have received under the auspices of drug-impaired driving has sharpened their skills, and kept impaired driving top of mind 24 hours, seven days a week.
To add to this, legislation now allows officers to demand a roadside screening test without reasonable suspicion. In general, however, our officers do establish suspicion or grounds before making a demand, simply because it is diligent police work.
So, before you get behind the wheel, remember that Delta Police has a cadre of officers with enhanced training in impaired driving, and they have tools and legislation to back them up. They have seen the carnage and devastation caused by impaired driving first-hand and they have had to do next-of-kin notifications. They’d rather stop it before it happens and they take this very, very seriously.
Everyone has a right to be safe on our roads and those who put others at risk will be held accountable. Would I like to see our statistics related to impaired driving decrease? Yes, and no. I am proud of the work of our front line and I don’t want them to let their foot off the gas. Every impaired driver taken off the road reduces that risk just a little.
Share this with friends and family. Have the conversation. Make a plan. Help us keep our roads safe.
Neil Dubord is chief constable of the Delta Police Department.