Police on P.E.I. get new tool to combat drug impaired driving

·2 min read
There are currently 10 of the devices being used in the province shared between the RCMP as well as the Summerside and Charlottetown police, says Const. Ron Kennedy, with the Charlottetown police. (Tony Davis/CBC - image credit)
There are currently 10 of the devices being used in the province shared between the RCMP as well as the Summerside and Charlottetown police, says Const. Ron Kennedy, with the Charlottetown police. (Tony Davis/CBC - image credit)

Police on Prince Edward Island are now using a new tool to deal with drug impaired driving in the province.

SoToxa is a handheld drug screening device which reads oral swabs for traces of THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.

"The officer would stop a vehicle, and they would have raised our suspicion that the person may have some, some drugs in their system, particularly THC," said Charlottetown Const. Ron Kennedy.

"We would take a sample of their oral fluid and we would put it in the instrument and within a few minutes it would give us a positive or negative rating."

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

The swab has to be scrubbed around a person's mouth for about four minutes before it has enough saliva to be tested.

"There is a preset threshold within the instrument and if it doesn't meet that threshold we won't get a reading," he said.

The swab is then inserted into the base of the handheld device.

"What this instrument will give us a positive or negative for THC right now," Kennedy said.

The device doesn't give an exact reading of how much THC might be in a driver's blood stream. If someone tests positive they would be taken into the station and the person would be given a drug recognition expert (DRE) evaluation, he said.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

"The DRE officer then would make the decision then based on the totality of all of his testing … he would make a decision at that point and time whether he is going to take a sample of blood or sample of urine," Kennedy said.

The blood or urine would be then sent to a lab to be tested to see what amount of THC, if any, is present, Kennedy said.

Before this, Charlottetown police officers were using a standardized field sobriety test, asking people to step out of the vehicle to observe things such as balance.

The tool has already been used by Charlottetown police to take an impaired driver off the road this past weekend, Kennedy said.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

Island RCMP plan to use the device in some roadside checks soon.

"Several RCMP members have been trained in these past weeks, and they are available to trained members on the road," RCMP Sgt. Chris Gunn wrote in an email.

Gunn said the RCMP will be using the device during the upcoming holiday season, when checkpoints increase.

There are currently 10 of the devices being used in the province shared between the RCMP as well as the Summerside and Charlottetown police, Kennedy said.

Police said they were hoping to get the devices a lot sooner but COVID-19 caused delays. Kennedy said with pandemic protocols in place it was hard to be able to get a large group of officers trained all at once.

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