The easy, low-cost way to catch stoned drivers


It’s amazing to see how much effort and money is going into preparation for next Wednesday, when pot becomes legal in Canada. You’d think government would have less to do when something becomes legal but, no, all the levels of government have been bulking up for a year now. It’s the way we do things here.

Still, amazingly, it’s not going well.

For example, CBC reports that police departments are still ill-equipped to detect and deal with suspected stoned drivers.  “Only” 833 of Canada’s finest have been trained as a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) versus the 2,000 sought by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

But their methods, which can involve detention with scant cause and be highly intrusive, are in for a rough ride in court.

Here, thanks to Robichaud Law, are some of the hoops traffic officers will go through to get a conviction.

First, the police officer must determine whether there is a “reasonable suspicion” the driver is impaired by drugs. Here’s a list of suspicious signs:

  • smelling marijuana emanating from the person,
  • observing erratic driving behaviour,
  • obtaining an admission of the suspect of recent drug consumption
  • observing strange behaviour
  • observing bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, etc.

Hell, spending an hour in the visitors’ gallery at Doug Ford’s Ontario legislature could produce four of those symptoms. More if you visited the press gallery.

And what if your doctor has prescribed you tranquillizers? What’s your answer when you’re asked if you’ve recently consumed drugs?

So, let’s say the cop determines you could be stoned or drunk. You’re off to see a DRE, if there’s one to be found. Here’s what happens.

  • a preliminary examination involving pupil measurement and comparison, pulse, eye tracking of an object;
  • a horizontal and vertical “gaze nystagmus test” (i.e. jerky eye movement);
  • a “lack-of-convergence” test (i.e. can’t cross your eyes);
  • divided-attention tests, which consist of balancing, walking and turning, one-legged standing, finger-to-nose test;
  • blood pressure, temperature and pulse;
  •  an examination of pupil sizes under (different) levels of ambient light, near-total darkness and direct light and an examination of the nasal and oral cavities;
  • an examination which consists of checking muscle tone and pulse; and,
  • a visual examination of the arms, neck and, if exposed, the legs for evidence of injection sites.

After checking off that intrusive list, the DRE may decide the driver is impaired and demand samples of saliva, urine and/or blood. But fluid tests are unreliable indicators of weed impairment and, in any case, CBC says there isn’t a single cop in the country qualified to take a blood sample.

This is tough enough on police trying to do their jobs, but what if you’re the driver and you’re innocent? To paraphrase comedian Russell Peters, somebody gonna get real mad.

And one way or another, it’s going to be a licence to print money for criminal lawyers.

What to do? The answer is as obvious as your bloodshot eyes: ask suspect drivers to take a test in a driving simulator. You could even fit a simulator in one those over-sized police vans for roadside testing. The officer would simply ask the suspect to take the wheel of a simulator and start “driving”. The machine could measure all the key aspects: reaction-time, hazard recognition, speed, ability to stay inside the lines, etc.

Best of all, the machine would produce the results in a cold, objective printout. It wouldn’t matter whether the suspect had alcohol or other drugs in her system, or how much of it, because we would know whether or not she can drive safely. From a public safety perspective nothing else really matters, right?

Do driving simulators exist? Of course. Are they expensive? Alibaba has a wide variety of them at reasonable prices. Even after being tricked out for law enforcement purposes, I doubt one would cost more than a single police patrol car. And, assuming I passed, I wouldn’t feel inconvenienced because the simulator experience looks kinda fun. (There’s a demo video here, for a model starting at US $10,000. NB: Download takes patience.)

Some will say the system might unfairly catch sober but bad drivers. Well, what’s unfair about getting dangerous drivers off the road? That’s why we require driving tests in the first place.

To summarize. Smoked weed? Don’t care. Drank alcohol? Don’t care. Dangerous driver? We care. Then, and only then, we’ll investigate whether substance abuse is the cause.

So, problem solved. Or, as we say at Turpin Labs: ipso facto duodenum.