IV) Law Enforcement
The effectiveness of impaired driving sanctions in reducing impaired driving is dependent upon the ability and availability of police to detect impaired drivers and the certainty of their apprehension. However, according to the Traffic Injury Research Foundation an impaired driver may drive impaired between 200 to 2000 times before being apprehended for a first offence.
Current Law Enforcement Issues
It can be difficult for police to detect impaired drivers who do not display gross signs of impairment and virtually impossible to detect drug impairment without special training. The Winnipeg Police Service has been testing Passive Alcohol Sensor units, which are flashlight-like devices that can accurately detect the presence of alcohol on a driver's breath even in extremely cold conditions. British Columbia has implemented Standard Field Sobriety Testing and Drug Recognition Evaluation programs that provide police with sophisticated training to detect alcohol or drug impairment and enable their evidence to be admitted in court. However, in Manitoba, other than check stop roadblocks, there are not currently any measures to assist police to detect and apprehend suspended drivers. Quebec has begun implementation of an in-vehicle computer database system (System for Technological Applications in Road Safety (STARS)), which enables police to access the most current licence, vehicle registration and insurance information at roadside. Another concern is that the HTA was recently amended to extend its impaired driving sanctions to off-road vehicles (ORVs) such as snowmobiles and ATVs, but police state that it is difficult to set up check-stops or to patrol off-road in search of impaired ORV operators.
Another issue that affects the availability of police for the detection of impaired drivers is the amount of time that it takes to process an impaired driver. According to Transport Canada's Front - Line Police Officers' Perceptions of Impaired Driving Enforcement in Canada report, it takes an average of nearly three hours to process an impaired driving charge. During that time police officers are off the road and not available to apprehend any other impaired drivers. Nearly 70% of the time needed to process impaired driving charges is spent on administrative matters such as completing the required forms and processing the accused, waiting for the suspect to obtain legal advice, getting a translator (if needed) and transporting the suspect to the police station. In contrast, 30% of the time is spent determining whether there are grounds for a breathalyzer test and on conducting the breathalyzer tests. Fifty-percent of the officers who responded to the Transport Canada survey indicated that they would be able to lay more impaired driving charges if the process took less time to complete.
Issues for consideration