WINDSOR, N.S. — Hants County motorists are being reminded to think twice before getting behind the wheel of a vehicle while impaired.
And if they don’t heed the warnings, there’s a higher probability that they’ll get caught this year.
Windsor District RCMP Staff Sgt. Cory Bushell says police are cracking down on impaired driving, and thanks to part two of Bill C46, which came into effect Dec. 18, 2018, they have much more ability to do so.
“As a result of that, police are now authorized to conduct mandatory alcohol screening at roadside,” said Bushell.
In the past, police required reasonable suspicion of impairment to take a breath sample for analysis. That requirement has been lifted.
“The public can rest assured though that there will be measures put in place to ensure impartiality as it relates to that,” said Bushell.
“For example, if we’re going to have a checkstop, it will be documented prior to the checkstop that we’re going to be demanding a sample from every driver or we’re going to demand a sample from every third driver — something like that. We’re not going to be cherry-picking,” he said.
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With marijuana becoming legalized in 2018, Bushell said they will be ramping up efforts to get high drivers off the roads.
“It’s definitely more on the radar,” said Bushell, noting they’ve always dealt with some drivers impaired by marijuana.
“Marijuana use is not new to Canadians, hence it’s now legalized,” he said, adding that it is easier for people to access the drug now.
“It is more widely accessible to people who, perhaps, had not had access to marijuana in the past. People can legally obtain it through a retailer,” he said.
Bushell said the RCMP needs to be aware that “it may increase impaired driving. Not that it will or it must, but it may.”
Just prior to Christmas, on Dec. 19, members of the Windsor RCMP and Southwest Nova RCMP Traffic Services, conducted a checkpoint on Wentworth Road. They administered a roadside drug test on a 19-year-old man and he tested positive for having THC in his system. He was then taken to the Hants Community Hospital to have a blood sample drawn and was released with a notice to appear in court in April. Once the toxicology report is ready, he may face charges for driving while having an illegal concentration of drugs in his blood.
Bushell said the New Minas branch of Southwest Nova RCMP Traffic Services will be looking at doing more checkpoints in Hants County.
“Their job is to do their best to identify problem areas and then saturate those areas,” he said.
“These members were out doing saturation patrols in the Windsor area (on Dec. 19) and as a result of that, they identified that perhaps this is a good area to come back and visit for some deeper saturation — predominantly looking at impaired driving by marijuana.”
Bushell said in 2017, there were 69,000 impaired driving incidents reported to police across Canada, 3,500 of which were drug-impaired driving incidents.
He hopes to see that number decrease as people put safety first and refrain from driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
“When you think about things that contribute to the unwellness and the departure for safety for Canadians, impaired driving is No. 1. It’s a serious issue and a serious concern for police.”