Sudbury

Teen 'drugged driving' concerns police, health officials

A Sudbury public health nurse says there is some disturbing news about teens taking drugs and getting behind the wheel, as revealed in the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey released Wednesday.
A new survey shows northern Ontario teens are getting behind the wheel after drinking and doing drugs.

A Sudbury public health nurse says there is some disturbing news about teens taking drugs and getting behind the wheel, as revealed in the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey released Wednesday.

The poll asked students in Grades 7 through 12 to report their substance use in the past year.

Public health nurse Brenda Stankiewich said some anti-drug messages have gotten through to students — but others haven't.

Typically marijuana and binge drinking rates have been higher among northern Ontario students, she said. But in the latest survey, those rates are down, falling more in line with the provincial average.

While usage is down, teens were still getting in their cars. Four per cent of teens drank alcohol and drove and more than double used pot and drove, Stankiewich said.

“In terms of the body's inability to concentrate and reaction time being lower, 10 per cent of our Ontario youth getting behind the wheel after using cannabis is a significant issue,” she said.

OPP Sergeant Carolle Dionne said she's concerned about this risk-taking behaviour and thinks teens may have some misconceptions.

“They believe that they're more relaxed and they feel they're better drivers,” she said. “They feel that they're not impaired by doing this.”

Police officers are receiving training in how to spot drugged drivers, she said.

“We have drug recognition evaluation officers across the region … provincially, at each detachment, [who] we can tap into when we deal with a situation of impairment.”

So far this year, Dionne said the number of drugged driving charges sits at 26, up from around 20 last year.

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