Police team specializes in spotting drivers on drugs

By Drake Lowthers

Dec. 11, 2015

The 39-year-old Island-man got behind the wheel of his car stoned.

He was high on marijuana and methamphetamine. It didn’t take police long to notice and identify an intoxicated driver.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Mark Crowther said police spotted a vehicle driving erratically on Meadowbank Road at 11:14 p.m. on Oct. 29.

“The vehicle crossed the centre lane on numerous occasions – he was all over the road.”

An expert in drug-impaired recognition with the Charlottetown police was called to assist after the driver admitted to using a combination of marijuana and methamphetamine prior to driving.

The RCMP and municipal police on P.E.I. have a team of officers specifically trained to recognition drug-impaired driving.

There are seven such officers province wide – three with the Charlottetown police, three with the RCMP and one with the Summerside police. The province is scheduled to get two more by January.

Provincial DRE co-ordinator Const. Ken Wakelin said the evaluation system was created in 2008 and is a standardized procedure for determining impairment by drugs or a drug and alcohol combination.

“The evaluation involves the observation of visual clues and vital signs, questioning and the provision of a bodily fluid sample for analysis.”

The evaluation is designed to check for the presence of seven classes of drugs – depressants, inhalants, dissociative anaesthetic, cannabis, stimulants, hallucinogens and narcotics analgesic.

“Research has shown preliminary DRE evaluations – without the toxicology results from bodily fluid samples – to be more than 80 per cent effective.”

To be certified as a drug recognition expert, a person must pass eight exams, two practical tests and at least 12 drug evaluations detecting a minimum of four different classes of drugs and having these evaluations confirmed by toxicology results.

With the government expected to relax marijuana laws, the RCMP’s biggest concern is a spike in drug-impaired drivers, Crowther said.

“This is our major concern – we’re going to see drivers high as a kite behind the wheel.”

RCMP Cpl. Chris Gunn said impaired driving by drugs – prescription or otherwise – is just as criminally dangerous as driving while under the influence of alcohol.

“In this case the combination of marijuana and (the drug) speed made for some very significant driving evidence that could have been fatal.”

Meanwhile the Island driver pulled over by police faces criminal charges for driving under the influence of drugs, and possession of marijuana and methamphetamine. His vehicle was seized and he was issued a 90-day driving prohibition. He appears in court Dec. 30.