Drivers in Ontario who get caught high on drugs can now temporarily lose their driver’s licenses on the spot, courtesy of a new law that went into effect October 2.
If a motorist fails a roadside sobriety test due to drug consumption, they will lose their license for three days – the same consequence for drunk driving. The motorist also has to pay a $180 license reinstatement fee to the provincial government.
"It's great because we now have more tools for us to do our job," Sgt. Kerry Schmidt, spokesperson for the Ontario Provincial Police, Highway Safety Division, told CBC News.
“Hopefully it's a deterrent for these drivers to understand that you can't just have a joint or have some sort of drug in your body thinking that getting a little buzz isn't going to cause any problems."
The various ways motorists will be tested for their sobriety include eye exams, walking heel-to-toe in a straight line and standing on one foot during a mental challenge. Motorists who fail the test will be sent to the police station for physiological tests that will include blood pressure and body temperature. If the motorist fails those, their license will be suspended for 90 days and their car will be impounded for one week.
"Whether it's drugs or alcohol, impaired driving is never okay," Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said in a statement.
"Not only do you face tough penalties, but you risk your life and endanger everyone around you. It's not worth the risk. If you're not sober, don't get behind the wheel."
The penalties worsen for motorists who repeatedly fail roadside sobriety tests. While a first offense earns guilty motorists a three-day license suspension, a second offense earns them a seven-day suspension and a third offense earns them a 30-day suspension.
Police say they are not only looking for motorists under the influence of marijuana, but those who are high on any drug – both prescribed and illicit.
The new penalties are part of the Making Ontario's Roads Safer Act introduced last year. Impaired drivers can also be slapped with criminal charges which could result in a loss of licence, additional fines and jail time of up to five years.