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Police in Timmins are sounding the alarm over a significant increase in impaired driving charges so far in 2020.

Of particular concern is the increase in the number of people charged with driving under the influence of illegal drugs.

"So far this year, the Timmins Police Service has charged a total of 42 persons with impaired driving-related offences," police said in a news release Friday. "Of these 42 persons charged … 19 were deemed to be under the incapacitating influence of controlled substances."

The figures were calculated by the police service's drug recognition experts, as well as from roadside tests and other analyses.

"In some cases, the motorist is intoxicated based on a combination of the ingestion of narcotics and the consumption of alcohol," the release said.

The figures show that 45 per cent of all impaired arrests in "had ingested some form of a controlled substance prior to driving," police said.

"While not all charges have been proven in court, the remaining 23 charged persons were under the exclusive influence of alcohol."

Training for officers

For the same time period in 2019, between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, 32 people were charged with impaired driving.

Police said the increase is likely a result of having more drug recognition training among officers, more residents calling police to report impaired drivers, and that many people don't realize how impaired certain drugs will make them.

"Whatever the cause for the increase, the Timmins Police view this as a disturbing trend in regards to public safety," the release said.

A recent example happened Sept. 15, when a suspected impaired driver who had lost consciousness while at the wheel was arrested during the morning hours in a residential neighbourhood of Porcupine.

"Responding Timmins Police officers located a male subject displaying signs of impairment and being generally incoherent in the driver’s seat of a passenger vehicle," the release said. "Quantities of controlled substances were located within the vehicle as the driver was being arrested."

“There appears to be an obvious failure to recognize the dangers attached to engaging in impaired driving of any kind – alcohol or narcotic related," Timmins Police traffic Sgt. Thomas Chypyha said in the release. "From a law enforcement perspective, taking to the road after having consumed any substance that impairs or adversely alters a person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle alertly and responsibly definitely meets the threshold of a criminal act.

"The outcomes linked to this type of activity are often tragic and always preventable.”