With cannabis legalization less than a week away, many Manitobans do not think the country is ready to deal with drug-impaired driving, according to a new survey.
In the national survey put out by Desjardins Insurance, 82 per cent of Manitobans asked said they are concerned about drug-impaired driving.
Their concerns relate both to policing and driver behaviour. 73 per cent of people polled believe law enforcement do not have sufficient tools to identify marijuana-impaired drivers. 65 per cent of participants expect instances of impaired driving will go up when marijuana becomes legal.
This comes one day after the province said police will not have oral fluid screening devices in place by Oct. 17, the day of legalization. They expect to have at least 21 devices in use by the end of March.
Even with one less tool at their disposal, Winnipeg police say they will rely on their current roadside sobriety tests to spot cannabis-impaired drivers.
“We’ve been detecting drug-impaired drivers for years. This is nothing new to us,” traffic division inspector Gord Spado said.
“We’re increasing our training for standard field sobriety testing officers and drug recognition evaluation officers.”
Those field sobriety tests include asking drivers to multitask.
“We ask them to do things that compete for your attention, people under alcohol and drugs have a tough time remembering instructions and performing the physical tests,” Spado said.
MADD Winnipeg president Denise Elias says she thinks there will be more people behind the wheel under the influence of pot.
“What we’re finding is that impaired driving by alcohol has dropped, but impaired driving by cannabis has increased,” she said.
She’s not concerned with police being unable to identify high drivers.
“We have many trained specialists in the detection of drugs without using a mechanical device, and that will continue for the time being,” Elias said.
In a Stats Canada survey released in August, about 14 per cent of cannabis users report driving within two hours of using.
Police expect to receive the oral fluid screening devices in 4-6 weeks.