Modes of Transportation - In an Automobile

Don't Drive if You Have Taken Drugs or Medication!

If you get behind the wheel while impaired by drugs or by any medication that affects your ability to drive, you are putting your life and the lives of others at risk, in addition to exposing yourself to stiff penalties.

There are no harmless drugs

All drugs, from cannabis to cocaine, act on the brain and hinder your ability to drive, even if you have the impression that you can no longer feel the effects of the drug you used.

Getting behind the wheel while impaired by drugs or by any medication that affects your ability to drive

Below are some of the possible legal consequences of driving while impaired. This is an overview and the penalties may vary based on the number of offences, among other things.

Penalties for a 1st offence

  • Immediate licence suspension for 24 hours
  • Minimum fine: $1,000
  • Criminal record
  • Licence revocation for 1 or 3 years
  • Program to assess and reduce the risk of impaired driving (in French only)
  • Alcohol ignition interlock deviceA device that prevents a vehicle from starting when it detects the presence of alcohol in the driver’s body., depending on the situation

Penalties for a 2nd or subsequent offence

  • Immediate licence suspension for 24 hours
  • Vehicle seizure and impoundment for 90 days
  • No minimum fine
  • Imprisonment for 30 days, or for 120 days or more if the accident caused injury or death
  • Licence revocation for 3 to 5 years
  • Program to assess and reduce the risk of impaired driving (in French only)
  • Possibility of prohibition from registering, purchasing, renting or leasing a vehicle, or from operating a vehicle registered under your name, depending on the number of offences committed

See the What the Law Says section for a detailed description of costs and penalties.

Traffic offences you commit outside Québec follow you... back to Québec

Québec has entered into reciprocal agreements with Ontario, Maine and the State of New York.

Any offences leading to demerit points that you commit in those jurisdictions are entered on your driving record at the SAAQ, exactly as if those offences had been committed in Québec.

Police powers: officers are trained and able to detect impaired driving

If a police officer has doubts regarding a person’s ability to drive, he or she can have the driver undergo a series of tests, known as physical coordination tests (balance, walking and other tests) or have the driver blow into a breathalyzer, for example.

These tests are enough to place a driver under arrest.

A police officer may have sufficient grounds to place a driver under arrest for impaired driving simply by observing his or her behaviour.

Refusing to obey the orders of a peace officer

Refusing to perform physical coordination tests or to breathe into an alcohol-screening device automatically results in the stiffer penalties provided for under the Criminal Code and the Highway Safety Code.

Upon arrest

The effects of alcohol on driving

  • Increased risk-taking
  • False sense of security and control
  • Difficulty maintaining a constant speed
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Slower reaction times
  • Sudden movements
  • Poor coordination
  • Drowsiness

“Hard” drugs

These drugs include LSD, cocaine, crack and heroin, to name a few. They have an immediate and significant effect on the central nervous system. In most cases, they cause feelings of overexcitement, energy and euphoria that may make a person feel invincible.

When used at the wheel, hard drugs can turn drivers into highly dangerous individuals. Excessive speeding and recklessness can result in traffic accidents that are often more than just twisted metal, but lost lives.

“Soft” drugs

Smoking cannabis or using it under any other form causes effects that are as dangerous as using hard drugs, because the THC contained in this drug also acts directly on the central nervous system (the brain).

Cannabis at the wheel causes a decrease in vigilance and concentration, slower reflexes, poor coordination, longer reaction times, and impaired judgment.

When driving under the influence of cannabis, you could:

  • Fail to notice road signs
  • Veer off the road
  • Have difficulty maintaining a constant trajectory
  • Pass other vehicles in an unsafe manner
  • Take too long to brake
  • Have difficulty reacting in the case of an emergency

Prescription and over-the-counter medication

Some medications prescribed by health care professionals or sold over the counter can affect your ability to drive because they may cause:

  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • blurred vision
  • decreased concentration
  • memory problems
  • etc.

These medications can include tranquilizers, antidepressants, sleeping pills, antihistamines (for allergies), decongestants (for sinus problems or coughing, etc.), muscle relaxants and others, such as painkillers that contain opioids or other substances.

Almost all types of medications can cause side effects that affect your ability to drive, and these side effects may vary from person to person. Medications that cause drowsiness are particularly dangerous when driving.

You take medication and you have to drive?

Consult your physician or pharmacist to know about the effects of your medication on driving.

Carefully read the instructions and pay special attention to any contraindications to driving, regardless of whether the medication is prescribed by a physician or sold over the counter.

Warning

Beware of mixing!

Mixing medication with alcohol or drugs considerably increases your risk of being involved in a fatal accident. The effects of the different substances used can add up and amplify each other.

Simple and effective alternative solutions

Only time can eliminate the effects of drugs and medication, so plan accordingly! To get around, you can:

A pact for life

Sign a pact for life (PDF, 357 KB)This file does not meet Web accessibility standards. (available in French only) with your friends or family. In the pact, each person promises not to drive while impaired and offers their services to go and get the other person at any time.