As MADD prepares to memorialize Central Albertans killed by drunk drivers, many Albertans fear the roads will be more dangerous after the legalization of marijuana.
A new survey done by the CMA (Canadian Automobile Association) found 63 per cent of Canadians and 61 per cent of Albertans believe there will be more traffic havoc once marijuana is legalized next spring.
While a majority of respondents are predicting more impaired driving incidents will result, only a quarter of those polled believe police are properly prepared to deal with this change.
MADD Canada is pushing for police to get approval for road-side saliva testing. “If they don’t approve oral fluids testing when marijuana is legalized, then there will be an increase in impaired driving and a significant increase in crashes,” predicted Andrew Murie, CEO for MADD Canada, out of Oakville, Ont.
Murie said only urine tests are now available when police suspect a motorist of driving under the influence of drugs. But urine testing can be ineffective, he said. “It just shows there are drugs in your body. It doesn’t show impairment.”
He believes saliva tests will be necessary, and legal blood limits for marijuana will have to be set before legalization can happen. A government-appointed task force will make recommendations to the justice minister this month as to how marijuana use can be made legal. Murie believes it will then take six to eight months before the law is passed.
Meanwhile, Red Deer’s MADD chapter will hold its 24th-annual local candlelight vigil to remember those who were killed by drunk driving. It will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19, at St. Luke’s Church in Red Deer.
Candles will be lit for loved ones. And the guest speaker will be Patricia Hynes, national president of MADD from Newfoundland, whose stepson was killed by a drunk driver.
Many people who have lost family members find it helpful to talk to others in the same situation, said Gougeon. “They feel they are not alone.” But she knows of others who can’t attend the vigil “because it’s too hard on them.”
Gougeon’s eight-year-old sister was hit and killed by a drunken motorist in 1978, while riding her bike on a country road in Ontario. Her needless alcohol-related death is something Gougeon has never gotten over.
“It makes you feel helpless, angry and hurt that someone consciously made the choice to drive.”