Good morning. My name is Shirley Treacy. As I indicated, I am the current chair of the drugs and driving committee of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science.
The drugs and driving committee is an advisory committee to the Department of Justice on drug-impaired driving matters. I am a forensic toxicologist with more than 20 years of experience in analytical lab work as well as court testimony. I am the section manager for toxicology services for the RCMP forensic laboratory in Winnipeg and I am the former national operational support manager for toxicology services for the RCMP forensic laboratory. I'm also trained in standardized field sobriety testing and in the drug recognition, evaluation, and classification program.
The drugs and driving committee of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science has appeared twice before, in both 1999 and 2005, when similar drug-impaired driving legislation was introduced. Now, as on these previous occasions, the Canadian Society of Forensic Science drugs and driving committee wholeheartedly supports the legislation contained in Bill C-32.
The role of drugs in causing drug impairment as well as injury and fatal motor vehicle accidents in Canada and throughout the rest of the world is well documented in the scientific literature. The brief that was provided as part of this lists a number of those references.
Currently there are two offences in the Criminal Code that relate to impaired driving. One of them is in paragraph 253(b), which has to do with the illegal per se law, the “over 80” charge as it relates to alcohol. Here the police can demand that a person blow into a screening device at the roadside when they suspect alcohol in the body. If the person fails that screening device, the police then have reasonable and probable grounds to demand a breath sample for an evidentiary device—a breathalyzer, an Intoxilyzer, a DataMaster—and these readings can be used as evidence in court.
In the case of injury or if the person is unable to provide a breath sample, police can make a demand for a sample of blood, which is then collected by a medical practitioner and analyzed by the forensic laboratory for the presence of alcohol.
The second offence is in paragraph 253(a) of the Criminal Code, which has to do with driving impaired by alcohol or a drug, so in fact there is already a provision in the Criminal Code for drug-impaired driving. However, it is not as effective as it could be, since the police officer must provide evidence of both impaired driving behaviour as well as the presence of the drug causing impairment. You need both of those things.
Currently the second piece of information—the presence of a drug causing impairment—can only be determined through the driver's voluntarily participating in roadside sobriety testing, voluntarily giving a statement as to his drug consumption or voluntarily providing a bodily fluid sample for drug analysis. Most often this would be blood or urine. Note that I am emphasizing that these are all voluntary, and therefore few are compelled to comply.
Unlike the situation with regard to alcohol, there is no per se law for drugs, and there is no simple comprehensive roadside testing available to prove the presence of drug in a suspected drug-impaired driver. Available existing roadside screening tests conducted on urine or saliva are limited to the possible detection of just a few classes of drugs. These tests are presumptive only, non-specific, and do not measure impairment.
The drugs and driving committee does not support roadside testing for drugs by police officers. We feel that all drug testing, both screening and confirmation, should be conducted in a forensic laboratory by skilled analysts.
A drug-impaired driving case can only be proven by the totality of the following: one, observed and documented altered driving behaviour that alerts the police; two, roadside sobriety and drug recognition testing; and three, the demand for the collection of a bodily fluid. This bodily fluid sample would then be analyzed for the presence of drugs in a forensic laboratory.
Bill C-32 will give the police the authority to demand that the person perform the roadside sobriety test and drug recognition test, if appropriate, as well as to demand the collection of a bodily fluid. With these three things in place, these proposed legislative changes would safeguard and exclude those drivers who use prescribed medication correctly for therapeutic uses. Ethical use of drugs prescribed by a physician and dispensed and monitored by a pharmacist should not lead to impairment.
It is important to note that the mere presence of a drug in the driver, whether it be a prescription, a non-prescription, or an illicit drug, would not lead to a charge of impaired driving, since his or her driving would not have alerted police. Please remember that not all drugs will cause impairment, nor will they affect one's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.
In the United States, the issue of drug-impaired drivers has led to the establishment of the drug recognition evaluation or DRE program in most states. The DRE program was adopted in 1988 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA, and is managed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. It represents a structured 12-step procedure for assessing suspected impaired individuals and allows for the detection and documentation of symptoms of drug use and the effects.
The DRE program is based on the scientific fact that each family of drugs has its own set of clinical indicators. There are seven classes. They look at things like pulse, blood pressure, body temperature, muscle tone, and examination of the eyes. These can be learned, and tests can then be administered to look at the set of clinical indicators. This then allows the DRE-trained officer to identify a particular family or families of drugs causing impairment.
In addition, part of the DRE protocol is to have the individual complete a number of divided attention tasks to check for a deterioration in the ability to perform these tasks. Because driving is a complex task, it requires persons to divide their attention to do both physical and mental functions at the same time. Persons under the influence of drugs or alcohol will have difficulty in dividing their attention. In fact, they have a tendency to focus on one task, while ignoring others. For example, a person might concentrate on maintaining speed but would have trouble or be negligent in monitoring a lane position. Any deterioration in the ability to perform the divided attention tasks will be documented as part of the DRE protocol. This is used to assess whether or not a person is impaired.
The DRE approach also establishes the necessary probative cause for the collection of a biological sample for toxicological testing. If and when the DRE-trained officer identifies a family of drugs as causing impairment, the DRE can then demand a bodily fluid sample to test for the presence of the drug.
At this point, collection of the bodily fluid, which is usually urine, is the last step. It's step 12 of 12 steps. The urine sample is collected and then analyzed for the presence of drugs by a forensic laboratory.
The toxicologist's main role in this type of impaired driving investigation, and by that I mean where a DRE evaluation is completed, is to corroborate the finding of the DRE-trained officer. Therefore, if the DRE finding is not supported by the drug analysis, the toxicologist cannot corroborate the DRE finding and the case will not proceed to trial.
This process is outlined in reference 7, which is entitled “The Drug-Impaired Driver: The Drug Recognition Expert Response”.
At present there are 46 U.S. states that use this process to detect and prosecute drug-impaired drivers. This program has been scientifically validated both in the laboratory and at the roadside. Since the proposed legislation will detect the abuse of both pharmaceutical and illicit drugs, it's application is not restricted to illicit drugs.
In addition to the impairment caused by alcohol and other recreational drugs, there are many other medical conditions that can cause driving impairment, such as, for example, things like uncontrolled diabetes, epilepsy, and stroke. The DRE procedures are designed to help police officers identify medical disorders that can cause impairment. As a result, the DRE-trained officer would seek medical assistance for this person rather than incarceration.
Thank you for your attention.