CAA Manitoba Fall 2018 | Page 34

The legalization of cannabis may not immediately impact auto insurance rates, but motorists already face major consequences for driving while impaired—by alcohol, cannabis or any other drug “Driving records have an impact on insurance rates,” says CAA Manitoba Insurance broker Matt Hur. “That’s especially true if there is a history of traffic convictions and licence suspensions.” Like drunk driving, consuming cannabis before getting behind the wheel is considered impaired driving. An infraction will be reflected in the increased cost of licence renewals and insurance premiums. Bear in mind, too, that if reckless driving were to increase overall, insurance claims may follow, which could possibly impact premium rates. It’s in everyone’s best interest to drive safe and sober. 34 demand a breath sample from any driver they lawfully stop—even if there’s no reason to suspect the person behind the wheel has consumed alcohol. For cannabis and other drugs, the bill also authorizes police to use special testing devices to screen drivers at roadside, provided they sus- pect the driver has recently used drugs. But test- ing for cannabis isn’t as straightforward as testing for alcohol. Testing challenges The cannabis test requires a sample of saliva. Typically, an officer will rub an oral swab over a driver’s gums, tongue and inner cheeks. The swab is inserted into a machine, which then analyzes the saliva. The feds are currently reviewing two testing devices that, when used together, ascertain the presence of a drug in a person’s body. If approved, they’ll be put into use when legalization takes effect on October 17. But once the machines are available, they may not be used routinely—they’re expensive and not yet 100-percent reliable. They don’t measure the precise blood-concentration level of the drug, and the results they do produce are sometimes inaccurate. “Currently, when an officer suspects a driver may be under the influence of a drug, they can conduct a standardized field sobriety test at roadside,” Constable Fontaine explains. “If the driver performs poorly, he or she would be arrested for impaired driving. A drug-influence evaluation Next steps We don’t yet know the true impact of cannabis legalization on Manitoba drivers and road safety. “But it’s important that we are prepared,” says CAA’s Kulyk. “We need to focus on education and research, while ensuring our police services receive the funding they need.” The availability of reliable oral-screening devices and the capability to conduct impaired driving related blood tests within two-hours will be equally crucial. CAA also hopes researchers continue to study the link between THC and impairment, so that conclusive limits can be established. As all levels of government prepare for the impact of legalization, CAA Manitoba continues to play a lead- ership role. We will keep calling for comprehensive public education relat- ing to road safety in light of new drug laws. “Awareness of impaired driving is as important as ever,” Kulyk says. “Drug-impaired driving is just as dan- gerous as drunk driving—if not more so—since there is still smuch to learn.” In the meantime, it’s important to dispel cannabis myths and mis- conceptions, particularly as they relate to impaired driving. “Road safety is our first concern. We will continue to work with government and non-government stakeholders to ensure that everyone stays safe on our roads.” RISKY BUSINESS would then be conducted by a specially trained Drug Recognition Expert.” Manitoba has been preparing to protect the province’s roads from drug-impaired drivers for a while. “We’ve been training more WPS officers to detect and process drug-impaired drivers,” Fontaine says. In the past year, they’ve been trained to conduct field sobriety tests and drug-influence evaluations. Such efforts will continue over the next few years to ensure that there are enough properly trained officers available to deal with the expected influx of drug-impaired drivers.