Ontario to introduce zero tolerance legislation for drug-impaired driving

Drug-impaired driving has grave consequences for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. The costs associated with the drug-impaired driving are accidents that cause death, injuries, and damage to the infrastructure. A significant number of lives can be saved, injuries prevented and property damage curtailed by creating more awareness about this concern and bringing in Legislation to reduce drug-impaired driving especially in the wake of legalized marijuana use for recreational purposes.

Drugs have a severe impact on the driving capability of an individual due to the following:

  •  Marijuana – It slows reaction time, impairs short-term memory and concentration and causes the driver to vary speed and to wander.
  • Stimulants (such as cocaine and methamphetamine) – These reduce the driver’s balance and coordination, reduce impulse control and increase risk-taking.
  • Opioids (such as oxycodone, heroin, and fentanyl) – Slows reaction time, reduces the ability to divide attention and follow instructions and slows driving.
  • Sedatives (such as benzodiazepines, depressants, and sleep medications) – Impairs motor coordination and slows reaction time, and decreases attentiveness and ability to divide attention.

Taking cognizance of the above, the province of Ontario announced on Monday morning that it would introduce legislation this fall that will include zero tolerance for drug-impaired driving for several classes of motorists. This move aims to increase the penalties associated with drug-induced driving including cannabis to discourage drug-impaired driving.

Introduced on Sept. 8, the plan includes Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) oversight of approximately 150 standalone cannabis retail stores and among other items. It also comprises: a proposed minimum age of 19 years to use, purchase and possess recreational marijuana in Ontario, which will be allowed in “private residences” and will be strictly prohibited in public places, workplaces or when inside a motor vehicle. This legislation is proposed as a “coordinated enforcement strategy” to help shut down illegal cannabis dispensaries. This plan aims to focus on prevention, diversion and harm reduction for people under 19 years of age; without unnecessarily bringing them into contact with the justice system.

These, tougher laws against drug-impaired driving will include zero tolerance for young drivers aged 21 and under; novice drivers – G1, G2, M1 and M2 (motorcycle) license holders; and all commercial drivers.

The statement issued by the agency mentioned that “Zero tolerance means that drivers should not get behind the wheel if they have any detectable presence of drugs or alcohol in their system,” to specify the law. It was further stated that the federal government would be approving a screening device for cannabis and setting the thresholds for detectable presence in the coming months.

While the proposed legislation will increase monetary penalties for all drivers who fail, or refuse to perform, a sobriety test; the penalties for young, novice and commercial drivers include a three-day license suspension on the first occurrence and a penalty of $250, with suspensions and penalties increasing with subsequent defaults.

Related Article: Distracted driving penalties increase under new Ontario law

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