The Penticton South Okanagan Similkameen Regional Detachment is once again reminding the public to not drive impaired this holiday season.
On Dec. 1, the Penticton RCMP joined forces with the South Okanagan Traffic Services taking 12 impaired drivers off of the road. According to a release from the detachment, an average of 68 people die each year in crashes involving impairment in B.C., with half of these crashes occuring on the weekend between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m.
“Starting early December, the detachment joined also by South Okanagan Traffic Services, will be ramping up targeted CounterAttack enforcement. Officers will be looking for those impaired by both alcohol and drugs,” said Const. James Grandy in a news release. “There will be specially-trained drug recognition experts ready to assess those drivers who may be impaired by drugs, such as marijuana.”
The ability for officers to accurately test the level of cannabis in a person’s system has been the topic of much debate since legalization in October. Officers can utilize Draeger machines, which analyze a person’s saliva to detect cannabis, but their high cost means they are not as readily accessible as a breathalyzer, which analyze’s a persons breath to detect alcohol.
Concerns have also risen about the accuracy of Draeger machines in determining if a person is currently impaired, because cannabis can stay in a person’s body for days after use and long-term cannabis users can build up a reserve in their system. Drug recognition experts conduct roadside tests involving eye pigmentation to determine if a person is currently impaired.
Officers who receive the drug recognition training as certified as experts in court and can give testimony as to why in their opinion a person is under the influence of drugs. At the initial blitz by the South Okanagan Traffic Services, after legalization, RCMP said one driver was observed and suspected to be under the influence of cannabis which resulted in a roadside suspension. Several violation tickets were also issued under the new Cannabis Control and Licensing Act at the initial enhanced impaired driving enforcement campaign.
“There are so many easy alternatives to getting around safely this season, there’s no reason to risk driving while impaired,” said Grandy. “Before going out this holiday season, plan for a safe ride home.”
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