Drug drivers pose growing danger to road users
THE number of drivers being caught with drugs in their system is now almost as big a problem as those engaged in dangerous drink driving.
And new figures show almost 1,500 people tested positive for drug driving last year -- but just 831 were prosecuted.
Yesterday, experts warned that drug driving was becoming as big a problem as drink driving, but that the numbers being detected were far less.
It was not just illegal drugs that posed a danger to road users, Professor Denis Cusack from the Medical Bureau of Road Safety told a conference.
Prescription drugs could also affect a motorist's judgment and ability to drive safely.
"If any one of us has a loved one killed by a driver who's impaired, quite frankly it doesn't really matter whether it is an 18-year-old out of his head on speed or a doped-up granny on medications," he said.
"Last year we tested 1,980 samples, of which 1,444 (73pc) were positive."
Prof Cusack was speaking at an international lecture on drug driving in Dublin Castle yesterday, hosted by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) to mark Irish Road Safety Week.
He said that gardai would be trained from next year on how to spot drivers under the influence of drugs, and that roadside impairment testing -- where motorists are asked to undertake a number of exercises that reveal symptoms of drug-taking -- would be introduced early in 2011.
Research showed that around 25pc of those who took drugs and drove were under 25, but it was also prevalent in the 45-54 age bracket.
But the legal response to tackle the problem was more complex than dealing with drink driving, because there were hundreds of different types of drugs which caused different reactions.
There was no machine yet available which could be used by gardai to detect drugs in a motorist's system.
The conference also heard that one in 20 Irish motorists (6pc) had admitted taking drugs and driving. A survey of 1,000 people aged 17-34 years carried out by the RSA also found that one in five (22pc) was a passenger in a car driven by someone on drugs.
Canadian researcher Dr Doug Beirness, the author of a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on drugs and driving, said one in three drivers' deaths in Canada between 2000 and 2007 were drugs-related.