The Sault Ste. Marie Police Service, along with the RCMP, OPP, and Anishaabe Police Service, launched their Festive Ride Campaign on Wednesday. Officers will be out throughout the Sault and Prince Township over the next month conducting ride checks and ensuring everyone has a safe, enjoyable holiday season.
Along side this ride program, new legislation is also coming into effect across the country as of Dec. 18 of this year. This legislation will allow officers across the country stop any vehicle anywhere on roadways across the country, and demand that they provide a breath sample at that time. Currently, officers are only able to demand breath samples if given reason to believe a driver is under the influence.
Constable Sonny Spina said that he thinks this is a very important change in impaired driving laws, and was created to ensure the safety of people that are driving on roads across the country.
“Moving forward, it certainly gives our officers the opportunity to be able to conduct those tests at any point in time,” he said. “And really it’s all for the safety of people on the roads in Ontario and across Canada.”
Spina cautions all novice drivers – those with a G1 or G2 class license, or under the age of 22 – as well as commercial drivers, to ensure they have a blood-alcohol level of zero at all times. Anything above that will not be tolerated and will result in a three-day license suspension for first-offenders, seven days for second-offenders, and 30-day suspension for third offenses. They also run the risk of having their vehicle towed, resulting in paying a reinstatement fee of $198 plus, as of Jan. 1, 2019, an administration penalty of $250.
“We know that impaired driving is still the number one criminal cause of deaths in Canada. So it’s very important for us to do everything we can to help reduce impaired driving across the country.”
Spina said, at least for the time being, this new legislation only effects alcohol consumption and not the use of cannabis.
Officers conducting the Festive Ride Campaign, however, will be checking for impairment due to the substance. The Police Service is doing so with the introduction of cannabis detectors, which can detect the presence of cannabis or cocaine within someone’s system, just not the concentration of the substance.
“If we were looking at a criminal charge for someone for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs, we have other tools at our disposal,” Spina said.
These tools include what the Service calls SFST – Standard Field Sobriety Technician – and drug recognition experts, which are officers who can come to a scene and administer tests on a driver to determine if they’re impaired by drug as well as what drug they’re impaired by.
“These are very highly trained officers, they’re very highly effective officers, and we continue to use those officers and that training in order to combat impaired driving by drug,” said Spina.
“I think we keep more of a closer eye on the cannabis, because we expect there will be more use of it,” SSMPS Sergeant Ray Magnon said, mirroring Spina’s statement. “When we’re dealing with motorists, we’re looking for alcohol, but we will also be looking for marijuana, and if we do see signs of impairment, or there is a smell in the vehicle, it could lead to further investigation and further charges.”
As of yet, nobody in the city has been charged for driving under the influence of cannabis.
900 vehicles where checked during the 2017 Ride Campaign, resulting in five impaired driving charges and two license suspensions.