Thursday 18 January 2018

'I was humiliated by drug driving arrest because of my medication' - driver hits out at new laws

Alan Croghan
Alan Croghan Newsdesk Newsdesk

A motorist who failed one of the country's first roadside drug driving tests has hit out at the new laws after he claims his medication caused him to fail the test.

Alan Croghan spoke to Joe Duffy on RTÉ's Liveline today and outlined how he came to be tested and what happened after he failed.

On Good Friday, at around 11pm, he said he was stopped by gardai and was tested for alcohol and drugs on the N11.

He tested positive for benzodiazepines and opiates and was arrested on suspicion of drug-driving, before being brought to Bray garda station.

Mr Croghan said he has a number of prescriptions for various medical reasons, including a liver transplant a number of years ago.

"I'm on a litany of medications, none of which are mind-altering," he told the broadcaster.

He takes more than 20 tablets per day, including Xanax and Solpadine which he suspects may have negatively affected his results on the test.

Mr Croghan gave a blood sample in the garda station which will be tested further.

He claimed he was left in a "dirty, manky" cell for two hours during the incident before being released at 2am when he had to get a taxi back to his car, at a cost of €33.

"I just feel really, really hard done by," the author and former journalist said.

"The doctor said to me: 'I'm after talking to you for the last 20 minutes your speech isn't slurred, your walking steady, I'm after having the most articulate conversation I've had with you. There is no way you are inebriated'," he said.

"People who are prescribed medications and don't abuse them are going to be prosecuted... this is insane Joe," he added.

The garda press office said it was unable to comment on individual cases.

A number of other listeners contacted Liveline expressing concerns about whether their medication would cause them to fail a drug-driving test.

At the much-heralded launch of the tests last week gardai and safety chiefs attempted to answer a number of questions to inform people taking prescribed medication.

An information leaflet is available here.

Can I drive when on medication?

It is against the law to drive under the influence of certain drugs to the point that you cannot keep proper control over the vehicle, including prescribed drugs.

According to the Road Safety Authority there are a number of side-effects that may reduce your ability to drive safely including: sleeping tablets, anti-depressants, sedatives, some pain killers, some allergy or hay fever medications, anti-nausea medications, some medications for epilepsy.

People are advised to pay attention to leaflets included with their medication and to check with their doctor or pharmacists if they are concerned.

I take medication, how do I know if I should be behind the wheel?

Gardaí advise people to speak to their pharmacist if they are concerned about the medication they are taking.

Medications will contain advisory notes about whether driving is likely to be affected.

People are also advised not to drive when first taking medication in order to gauge if it is likely their driving will be affected.

Drivers are also encouraged to be alert for tell-tale signs that their driving is impaired.

I've failed a road-side test, now what?

Similar to drink driving tests you will be taken to your nearest garda station for further testing. A blood sample will be taken. If it returns with results showing opiates or benzodiazepines you will be charged and taken to court.

It is expected that there will be "borderline cases", where drivers who are on medication and fail the roadside test will be shown to be within the legal limit after the second test.

What happens if I am convicted of drug driving?

The penalties for drug driving is a minimum one-year driving disqualification if you are found to be above the legal threshold for cocaine, cannabis or heroin.

A minimum of  four years driving disqualification if you are found to have drugs in your body and are impaired to such an extent that you do not have proper control of a vehicle and fines of up to €5,000 and up to six months in prison.

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