About half of all impaired drivers arrested by Corman Park Police Service (CPPS) at roadside check stops are under the influence of cannabis.

“We’re seeing almost a 50-50 split between drivers impaired by drugs and impaired by alcohol,” said Corman Park Police Chief Ron Chomyn in an interview in late January. “I’ve been in policing for over 40 years, and I’m so disappointed and frustrated with the amount of impaired driving that still takes place out there; with the decision some people make to roll the dice and get behind the wheel.

“It’s an issue right across the country, but it’s especially serious in Saskatchewan.”

Chomyn said one of the reasons for the increase in  drug-impaired arrests may be that police now have roadside testing equipment designed to  detect traces of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC – the main psychoactive constituent of cannabis).

“When the federal government made the choice to legalize cannabis in 2018, they also had to provide police with tools to detect when a person is under that influence,” said Chomyn. “All our officers are trained in standard field sobriety tests and are able to detect when someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”

In cases where officers detect the smell of cannabis or if the driver admits to recent use of the drug, the officer can administer a test for THC levels.

While cannabis is the most common drug, it’s by no means the only one. Chomyn said other tests can detect the presence of methamphetamine and cocaine.

Chomyn said one encouraging trend he’s noticed is that young people in the 16-25 year age group tend to be making more responsible choices.

“I think the educational initiatives in high schools are making an impact,” said Chomyn. “A lot of high school and university-age people realize it’s not worth taking that chance, and they’re choosing not to drive if they’ve been drinking. They’ll phone a friend to come and pick them up, or someone in their group of friends will stay sober and be the designated driver.”

While the younger generation seems to have gotten the  message about impaired driving, there’s still a long way to go when it comes to distracted driving; and that applies to all generations, said Chomyn.

“We’re still seeing tons of cases of distracted driving,” said Chomyn. “As great as the internet and cell phones are, I don’t understand why people can’t put their phones down.

“You’d think the fines would be a deterrent; it’s in the $2,300 range for a third offence, plus the demerit points and the possibility of having your license suspended.”

Chomyn said distracted driving is just as dangerous as impaired driving.

“If you’re not focused, things can change so quickly in front of you,” he said. “If you take your eyes off the road for even two or three seconds and something unexpected happens; and you’re heading toward that incident at 110 kilometers an hour, it’s going to be life-changing, and probably not in a good way.”

Chomyn said “aggressive driving” and excessive speeding are also concerns. Making the roads safer starts with a change in attitude by the person behind the wheel, he added.

“Driving 120 kilometers an hour on a gravel road with an 80 kilometer speed limit is dangerous,” said Chomyn. “We’re letting people know that there are no more warnings for things like that. Speeding just so you can get your kid to hockey practice is not a reasonable excuse.

“Especially with children in the vehicle. That’s precious cargo you have in there. Is it worth putting yourself and your children, and others who use the road, at risk?”

Chomyn said property crime in the RM of Corman Park and smaller communities around Saskatoon is due in large part to a spillover of drug and gang-related activities in the larger city.

“Rural areas aren’t immune from the problems that we face from an addictions standpoint; of people who are caught in that personal or health crisis,” said Chomyn. “If they’re going to be doing illicit drugs, they need money to support their habit, and that usually involves property crime, theft or robberies.”

Chomyn said property crime includes both residential and business thefts. Even the rising price of fuel offers thieves an opportunity, he said.

“If construction work is going on at a site, and machinery is left at that location, the workers may come back in the morning to find the diesel tanks have been emptied,” he said.

“We encourage residents of the RM and smaller communities, that if they see something that just doesn’t look normal, we encourage them to call police,” he added. “If we don’t know about it, we can’t do anything about it. We do patrols every day and every night, but the RM is a very big area to cover. The information people provide us is extremely valuable.”

The phone number for the Corman Park Police Service is  306-242-8808. In an emergency, call 911.