The Yukon RCMP currently has about two dozen officers who have received training in detecting and investigating suspected impaired driving, with more expected to be trained in the new year.
The training is related to a national push by the RCMP to prepare for what it claims will be an uptick in drug-impaired driving cases following the legalization of cannabis earlier this month.
In an email Oct. 18, Yukon RCMP spokesperson Coralee Reid confirmed that the force currently has “approximately 20” members trained to administer standard field sobriety testing, with the aim to have 30 trained by January.
A standard field sobriety test usually takes place roadside, during which, according to the RCMP’s website, an officer will examine a suspected impaired driver’s eyes and ask the driver to complete a walk-and-turn and stand-on-one-leg test.
Reid also confirmed that Yukon RCMP currently has one officer trained as a drug recognition expert, with two additional officers to be trained in November and January.
Drug recognition experts receive special accreditation that allows them to administer the standard field sobriety test as well as a series of other assessments, including the “divided attention” test (which involves the driver completing tasks like walking in a straight line heel-to-toe), checking physical signs like blood pressure, pupil size and muscle tone and taking a urine, saliva or blood sample for toxicology.
Reid said that, after January, officers would be sent for drug recognition expert training as courses are scheduled.
As well, Reid confirmed that the Yukon RCMP will be getting a Draeger DrugTest 5000, a machine which can detect levels of THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, in saliva samples. The force is currently in the “procurement process” and doesn’t have an estimated delivery date yet, she wrote.
Nationally, the effectiveness and accuracy of the Draeger DrugTest 5000 has been up for debate; a report from CTV in August cited a study that found the device detected a false-positive for 14.5 per cent of drivers and a false-negative for 13.5 per cent when compared to blood samples.
CTV’s report also said that the device has an operation temperature ranging between four to 40 C.
In her email, Reid wrote that, in relation to questions about the device’s ability to function in cold climates, the Yukon RCMP believes “the device will operate in the northern environment, as designed.”
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