By Amy Woolvett
Shelburne RCMP are gaining the expertise to identify and charge drivers impaired by drugs, including prescription drugs and marijuana.
RCMP member, Const. Matt Stewart was trained during an extensive 21-day program in Jacksonville, Florida and is the only drug recognition expert in Shelburne County at this time.
For eight hours a day, he studied the human physiology of a person impaired by drugs and took part in the training needed to perform roadside and in-station tests.
The roadside test includes a three-step test including a horizontal and vertical gaze nystagmus test, a walk and turn test and a one-leg standing test.
“What we are looking at is seeing how well a person can divide their attention,” said Stewart, adding that people who are impaired have a difficult time doing this. “People might not think it is but driving is a massive dividing attention skill.”
Stewart trained with live subjects as well during a three day clinic where people impaired by drugs or alcohol were tested so that he could learn to identify someone impaired.
Pullout quote: “We know people are driving impaired in Shelburne County…especially marijuana,” said Stewart. “If you are abusing and driving your going to get caught.” Cst. Matt Stewart, Shelburne RCMP
If the first test is positive, the officer can take the driver back to the station to begin the second test.
“Based purely on my opinion and training, I have the grounds to arrest that person and bring them into the station,” said Stewart.
He said the second test is a much more detailed testing including blood rate, blood pressure, body temperature, blood tests to narrow down what category of drug the person is on.
“We know people are driving impaired in Shelburne County…especially marijuana,” said Stewart. “If you are abusing and driving you're going to get caught.”
He said now that there are more members in Nova Scotia trained in identifying drivers who are impaired by drugs, there will be more cases going through the court system.