Friday 28 April 2017

Six things you need to know about gardaí's new roadside drug testing regime

Since 2011, 1,637 motorists have been recorded as driving with drugs in their system. Stock picture
Since 2011, 1,637 motorists have been recorded as driving with drugs in their system. Stock picture
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Roadside drug testing starting within weeks will check motorists for commonly prescribed medicines including Valium and sleeping tablets, as well as illegal drugs.

But why are they happening, and could gardaí not already test for drugs?

Here's everything you need to know about the roadside drug testing:

1. Why are these tests being introduced?

Roadside drug testing has been proposed for a number of years, but the technology to take a saliva sample was not available until relatively recently.

Drug use can impair driving ability and increase the risk of being involved in a collision, and the tests form part of the national road safety strategy aimed at reducing deaths.

2. Can gardaí not already test for drugs?

Yes, using roadside impairment testing already includes five types of tasks - testing for pupil dilation, asking motorists to touch their nose with their finger, assessing balance, a walking test, and standing on one foot for a count of eight.

Since 2011, 1,637 motorists have been recorded as driving with drugs in their system.

3. I take prescription drugs. Am I affected?

Only if you exceed the stated dose, or don't take them as prescribed.

A number of medicines will also be exempt from the new rules, including medicinal cannabis.

But experts warn that if a motorist does not feel well, they shouldn't drive. They also suggest if your medication changes, or the dose is altered, you should take extra care.

4. What about other medications such as anti-histamines?

In the case of these drugs, gardaí will have to prove impairment and that you were unfit to drive.

5. What if I smoke a joint?

Professor Denis Cusack from the Medical Bureau of Road Safety said yesterday this was a difficult question to answer, as cannabis is more potent today than in the past. The drug may not be detected in your blood 12 hours after ingestion, but a driver can still be impaired.

6. Can I refuse to provide a sample?

No, you face a fine of €5,000 and/or six months imprisonment.

Irish Independent

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