Gardai in training for clampdown on drug-driving
GARDAI are at an advanced stage with radical plans to carry out US-style roadside checks on suspected drug drivers from September.
Eighty senior gardai are currently undergoing training as instructors in drug-driving tests, while training for all uniformed gardai on beat duty -- some 9,000 of a total of 14,500 -- will begin in May.
Drivers who pass the drink-driving breath test but appear intoxicated cannot currently be checked for drugs at the roadside. The planned introduction of the test in September will coincide with the introduction of lower drink-drive limits, down from 80mg to 50mg for most motorists and down to 20mg for learners and professional drivers.
An implementation group, including representatives from the Department of Transport, the Medical Bureau of Road Safety and senior gardai, are involved in the garda training programme.
The new tests include walking a straight line and a series of hand-eye coordination tests, such as getting drivers to stand on one leg, or placing a finger on the nose. There will also be an examination of the eye to check for dilated pupils.
The new system means that at least one garda carrying out roadside checkpoints or stopping drivers for erratic behaviour will be in a position to "form an opinion" as to whether motorists are under the influence of drugs, after ruling out alcohol.
Gardai who form an opinion that a driver is on drugs after failing the impairment test can then arrest them and bring them to the local garda station.
There they will have will have to submit to a blood or urine sample and will be prosecuted if they test positive for illegal substances, including cocaine, cannabis and heroin but also prescription medicines like valium.
Under the new legislation, a driver who refuses to submit to the roadside test can be fined €5,000 and be jailed for six months.