If you get behind the wheel while impaired by drugs or by some types of 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.
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.
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.
|Highway Safety Code||Criminal Code|
Following a criminal conviction
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In the case of a repeat offence within a period of 10 years, the penalties under the Highway Safety Code and the Criminal Code include:
In the case of a second or subsequent repeat offence within a period of 10 years, the penalties under the Highway Safety Code and the Criminal Code include:
See the What the Law Says section for a detailed description of costs and penalties.
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.
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 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.
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 often involve not only twisted metal, but lost lives.
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:
Some medications prescribed by health care professionals or sold over the counter can affect your ability to drive because they may cause:
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.
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.
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.
Only time can eliminate the effects of drugs and medication, so plan accordingly! To get around, you can:
To use only if they are available in your area and comply with the COVID-19 instructions and directives issued by the government of Québec.
Last update: May 19, 2022