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Alcohol not always cause of impaired driving

Impaired driving is not synonymous with drunk driving. Though the majority of impaired driving charges result from the use of alcohol, drugs -- both legal and otherwise -- do account for some instances. Take the following recent example from southwestern Ontario.

Drivers in Tecumseh, just east of Windsor, reported an apparent drunk driver during the last week of August 2016. Police responded to the report and intercepted a vehicle near County Road 22. The suspect vehicle proceeded to crash into the police cruiser, leading the officers to conclude the driver , a woman, was drunk. As it turns out, she had not been drinking; instead, she had been impaired by a drug in her system.

Marijuana is one of the top culprits in cases of drug-impaired driving. A remarkable statistic from the Windsor Regional Hospital reveals that every severely hurt car accident victim in 2013 aged 16 to 24 who came through the trauma centre had traces of THC, the chemical in marijuana that creates the "high" in the bloodstream. Though this does not definitively prove marijuana use causes accidents, experts believe that the rate of marijuana-related impaired driving incidents will only increase if the drug is legalized in Canada as is expected to happen.

For now, proving impaired driving was caused by drugs is extremely difficult. There is no legal limit for THC in the bloodstream in Canada, and the police do not have devices for measuring THC levels. Only a qualified officer may take a suspect's temperature or blood pressure, both indicators of drug use, though a urine sample may be ordered and cannot be refused. Still, it is difficult to make such evidence stand up in court.

Engaging in impaired driving is never a good decision. Unfortunately, some impairment-causing substances are less obvious than others, and drivers may be unknowingly putting themselves into physically and legally hazardous situations. A man or woman accused of impaired driving in Ontario could benefit from the knowledge of a criminal defense lawyer who understands the laws dealing with drugs and driving.

Source: Windsor Star, "Impaired driving : High drivers the new drunks", Sarah Sacheli, August 31, 2016

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