Canada’s New and Controversial Impaired Driving Regulations: Is the US Next?

Bill C-46 made sweeping changes to Canada’s alcohol-impaired driving and drug-impaired driving laws. While that may sound like a good thing, debates are many and heated about several of the changes.

The New Laws

Bill C-46 brings many upcoming changes for Canadians, but the major controversy surrounds three transformations.

Roadside Testing

In both Canada and the US, reasonable suspicion has always been required to pull someone over and conduct a sobriety or breathalyzer test. However, the new law allows police officers to conduct roadside tests on any driver, whether the officer has reasonable suspicion or not.

Anyone who refuses the test will face strict penalties.

Opponents claim the change is unconstitutional and that it may only further exacerbate the strain on the court system. Proponents argue it will keep the public safe.

THC Levels While Driving

In light of Canada’s recent decision to legalize marijuana, the nation has adopted new policies concerning the drug’s use while driving.

Bill C-46 established a level of THC permitted to be in the blood while driving. Citizens are required to avoid driving for two hours after being over the legal limit. In a similar decision to the new standards of roadside testing in alcohol, officers can conduct saliva tests to measure drivers’ THC levels.

Fines and punitive measures are dependent upon the amount of THC in the bloodstream. Lower levels may induce a $1,000 fine, but higher amounts can lead to jail time.

Because the link between THC levels and impairment is not as scientifically evident as it is with alcohol, experts suggest this may also lead to longer and more complicated court cases.

Saliva Tests

Finally, the third change concerns how THC testing will be conducted. Officers may require saliva tests, but-unlike with alcohol-they must have reasonable suspicion to test drivers.

The issue here is that the nation and other countries around the world are still testing equipment that can accurately measure THC levels in the blood. Although devices are currently being investigated, it will take several months for them to be approved, purchased and dispersed among police.

Is the US Next?

Across the pond, US citizens are experiencing a gradual incline toward a similar fate.

Presently, recreational cannabis is legal in 29 states. More states have recently begun to listen to demands for legality, with many passing medicinal use laws in the past few years.

However, a recent report by the Governors Highway Safety Association indicates fatal crashes involving drugs are rising. Consequently, several states have taken action to pass stricter measures on inhibited driving, including mandating ignition interlock systems after first offenses.

With the nation’s opioid epidemic, increases in drug-related driver fatalities and marijuana legalization, citizens may find themselves along a parallel path to Canada’s.

Responsible Use

One thing, however, is certain. “Driving while intoxicated accidents are easily preventable,” reminds an attorney from Texas. “Knowing when and when not to drive is a civic duty we all share.

Melissa Thompson

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.