KAWARTHA LAKES-Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)is pushing for Mandatory Alcohol Screening (MAS) at every traffic stop.
In a letter sent to Kawartha Lakes Police Chief Mark Mitchell in August, MADD says impaired driving continues to be a leading criminal cause of death in Canada, killing hundreds of people each year with thousands more suffering debilitating and permanent injuries.
“These deaths and injuries are tragic, senseless and entirely preventable,” said Steve Sullivan CEO of MADD Canada in the letter. “Detection and enforcement measures are key to reducing impaired driving and the horrific crashes it causes.”
Bill C-46 overhauled Canada’s federal impaired driving legislation and authorized the use of mandatory alcohol screening (MAS) and roadside oral fluid testing for the detection of impaired drivers.
MADD Canada says it undertook a consultation with police services across the country to assess the effectiveness of the way police currently use MAS. In-depth questionnaires were sent to 62 police services, asking about their usage of mandatory alcohol screening, oral fluid testing for drugs, standardized field sobriety testing, drug recognition evaluations and blood testing. Thirty-eight police services completed the questionnaires representing approximately 70% of the Canadian population according to MADD.
The resulting report, titled National Scan: An Enforcement Level Review of Bill C-46 and Canada’s Impaired Driving Testing Regime found that while police are using these screening tools, more can be done to ensure that police have the policies, resources and training to make the most effective and efficient use of these tools, particularly MAS and roadside oral fluid testing for drugs according to MADD.
One of the key conclusions and recommendations resulting from the National Scan includes working towards an ultimate goal of using mandatory alcohol screening at every lawful traffic stop where the officer has an approved screening device (ASD).
“We are recommending that Canadian police forces use mandatory alcohol screening (MAS) at every lawful traffic stop where the officer has an approved screening device (ASD) on hand because that is best practice, and it will save lives and prevent injuries,” Eric Dumschat Legal Director MADD Canada told Kawartha 411 News. “The federal MAS provision brought Canada’s federal impaired driving legislation into line with that of the great majority of similar countries, many of which had enacted comparable enforcement powers in the late 1970s and 1980s. Decades of research on the subject in countries across the globe have shown that using it in this manner helps to increase the deterrent impact of enforcement efforts, and saves lives and prevents injuries.” Currently, most police officers in Ontario use an alcohol screening device only when they have reason to suspect a driver has been drinking.
Kawartha Lakes Police Service has not implemented MAS. Its written policy states:
“It is the policy of this service to work towards the elimination of the occurrence of alcohol/drug-related driving in order to promote and facilitate the safe and efficient flow of vehicular and pedestrian traffic, with the protection of human life as the highest priority. In support of this goal, this Service will participate in Drinking and Driving countermeasure programs. This Service will conduct thorough investigations of occurrences of alcohol/drug-related driving encountered by officers on routine patrol, by reports from members of the public, or as part of Drinking and Driving countermeasures. “
Chief Mark Mitchell told Kawartha 411 he is open to trialling MAS in a limited way.
“I have met with MADD’s legal director and while MAS is where they would ultimately like to end up, they acknowledge that there are further discussions that need to take place (with the OACP and the Ministry of SolGen for example). There are also some practical issues in terms of sufficient equipment and the additional human resources that would be needed to implement a widespread MAS policy. MADD has conducted a through “National Scan” in support of their position,” Mitchell said. “While I could see us trialling a limited MAS application, at a RIDE spot check for example, we are not planning on a blanket MAS policy at this time.”
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has expressed concern about Bill C-46 and the implementation of MAS and says random breath testing is an unjustifiable violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“This brief raises significant concerns about the likely impact and constitutionality of mandatory alcohol screening, i.e., random breath testing “RBT”. The scheme proposed allows for random roving police stops followed by a requirement to submit to a breath test. RBT certainly engages the Charter rights of individuals, including the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure and the right to be free from arbitrary detention. As such, the evidence used to justify RBT should meet an exacting burden.” said the CCLA in opposing the legislation. “Moreover, there is nothing truly random about police stops. Since some individuals will often be pulled over “randomly” five, ten, a dozen times in a few months, for no obvious reason other than their age, the colour of their skin, or the neighbourhood they were driving in, RBT will often be humiliating and degrading to individuals who are subject to search.”
MADD Canada disagrees.
“In our opinion it would not be considered an overreach when someone is being stopped for a minor traffic infraction. MAS involves a quick, 60-90-second long test that will be a relatively minor inconvenience for the majority of Canadian drivers but will have a considerable impact on Canada’s impaired driving population, which will save lives and prevent injuries. To the best of our knowledge, the courts have upheld MAS as constitutional in every case that it has been challenged thus far.” said Dumschat.
MADD Canada is also calling for a standardized system to track the use and outcomes of detection tools and reduced wait times for having blood samples taken and analysed.