London police say a charge this week against a Norfolk County man is just the latest in a growing and troubling trend of drug-related impaired driving.
Police say they were contacted at roughly 2 a.m. Monday after an employee at a Tim Hortons on Trafalgar Street at Highbury Avenue North reported that a vehicle in the parking lot had been running without moving for about two hours.
When officers arrived, they found a man asleep at the wheel of the running vehicle. After waking the driver up, police say an officer “observed drug paraphernalia inside the car.”
A 59-year-old man was charged with impaired operation of a conveyance.
London Police Service traffic management unit sergeant Sean Harding says it’s the latest in what appears to be a troubling trend.
In November alone, London police laid 33 drug-related impaired driving charges, which police say is more than the service has seen over the course of an entire year previously.
Police say the criminal code does not differentiate between alcohol- and drug-impaired driving offences, but the data LPS are sharing is specific to drug-related impaired driving charges.
While 2019 numbers were not immediately available, Harding provided data from the past six months, including the 33 charges in November. There were 14 similar charges in October, nine in September, six in August, and two each in July and June.
“This dangerous trend is quite concerning,” he said.
“While we continue to receive tips from the public in relation to impaired drivers, we are finding more and more of them on the road.”
When asked what factors may be leading to the increase, Harding said he cannot say for sure, but he suspects the opioid crisis is playing a role, noting that roughly 20 of the 33 drug-related impaired driving charges laid in November involved narcotics, which include drugs like fentanyl, heroin, and methadone.
Harding noted the service has more Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFTS) officers and drug-recognition experts out than ever, after increasing their numbers over the last few years.
The annual Festive R.I.D.E. campaign is also in full swing, running until January 2, 2021.
He also stressed that none of the November drug-impaired charges were in relation to cannabis alone (one charge involved a depressant with cannabis while three charges involved narcotics and cannabis) and that it appears the public has generally been responsible about recreational cannabis since its legalization in October of 2018.