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MJPS traffic officer talks impaired driving and it’s consequences

Impaired driving is just one of the traffic infractions that Moose Jaw Police has to deal with here in the city
CPA drunk goggles
Cst. Jeremy Anderson (L) brought out the drunk goggles and administered a field test on Hana Giddings, who was unable to walk the straight line at a simulated 0.08 BAC.

Cst. Jeremey Anderson has been with the Moose Jaw Police Service for over a decade, and spoke to the Community Police Academy group as an expert on policing impaired driving violations. 

According to Anderson, alcohol remains the factor behind the majority of impaired driving causes since the legalization of marijuana in 2018, although there have been drug instances behind the wheel as well. 

Canada has some of the most lenient impaired driving laws when compared to other nations in the world, and Saskatchewan is one of the leading provinces in impaired driving infractions — a title the province has held for a number of years, despite increased consequences. 

Impaired driving is a large concern, as collisions involving drugs or alcohol continue to be the leading criminal cause of death in Canada. 

“SGI has doubled the fines, doubled the consequences, and people are still doing it,” said Anderson. “It's one of those things, like rolling through a stop sign. It seems like, 'oh, it's not a big deal,' until it is.”

Law enforcement has to rely largely on instinct when attempting to determine if a driver is intoxicated, Anderson explained. Beginning with smell and the individual’s behaviour, officers must be able to identify the signs of intoxication in order to further investigate.

There are two field tests an officer can use to prove a driver is intoxicated. The first is the approved screening device (ASD) — more commonly recognized as a field breathalyzer — and the second is the standardized field sobriety test (SFST): tracking the iris of the eye with a pen, standing on one leg, and walking in a straight line. 

Once an officer has administered one of these tests, they cannot administer the other — which means they have to very sure what to do in a situation. 

“Everything in impaired driving [tests] is set up to benefit the defendant,” said Anderson.”So for example, [the ASD] is set up to fail at 100 per cent, but the limit is only 80 per cent.”

Officers must also make informed decisions when laying Impaired Care and Control charges, especially in the wintertime. An impaired individual sitting in the passenger seat of their vehicle, with the keys on, could be at risk of arrest if an officer thinks there’s a chance that vehicle could move in the future. 

Most Saskatchewan drivers likely know someone who has been handed a drunk driving charge, and has had to go through SGI’s Driving Without Impairment (DWI) course as a result. 

The consequences of impaired driving have only gotten harsher in the last few years, with a first offence of driving over the blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 resulting in a one-year license suspension, vehicle impoundment, and at minimum a $1,000 fine.

Every time a driver blows a warning on a field breathalyzer — that is, a BAC of about 0.04 — they are required by SGI to take the DWI course again, and can face a 24-hour license suspension and vehicle impoundment. 

For Anderson, he’s heard all of the tricks to supposedly get alcohol out of the system quicker, or how many drinks is the limit before you can drive, and he says none of them will work. No matter what, alcohol leaves the bloodstream at about 10 to 15 milligrams/per cent each hour. 

“Alcohol affects everyone differently, but it leaves everyone the same way,” said Anderson.

There could be a change in the mindset around drunk driving looming on the horizon, especially given how often fatalities have been the result of impaired driving.

“I am finding a lot less young people who are driving impaired, and I think a big reason for that is we've lost a lot of young people in the last ten years, that have been killed because of impaired driving, but it's still out there,” said Anderson.

For Anderson, he wants to see our province’s impaired driving numbers greatly decrease, which he thinks will happen with education and awareness, and a change in mentality — that even one drink is too many to think about getting behind the wheel.

Details for this article were collected as part of the Moose Jaw Express’s attendance at the Community Police Academy.

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