Minister to close legal loopholes in crackdown on drug driving
Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe has vowed to tackle the increasing issue of drug driving through legislation in a bid to crack down on bad driver behaviour.
He said legislation was being drafted in "relation to tackling the huge threat of drug driving" and, once that was ready, his priority would be to strengthen it by integrating it with the existing legislation to ensure there were no legal loopholes.
Mr Donohoe said this new piece of legislation would act as the necessary "strong legal foundations for the use of the new drug testing mechanisms".
The garda roadside drug tests, which will be introduced early next year, will be used to identify drivers who are under the influence of drugs and will allow members of the force to test drivers for drugs such as cocaine and cannabis through a swab test.
The minister is adamant that the legal foundations will be as robust as possible so there will be no legal loopholes, or challenges to the drug tests in the courts.
"I have learned from my time as Minister for Transport that if the legal foundations in relation to road traffic legislation are not as robust as possible, it leads to challenges in court and it leads to problems with the implementation of road traffic law.
"And it is for that reason that we will have new primary legislation in place to underpin the use of these new devices," Mr Donohoe added yesterday.
He was speaking at an event to launch the Road Safety Authority's (RSA) UN 'World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims', which takes place on Sunday. The minister said he believed the current sanctions for road traffic offences were "proportionate", but warned we must not become complacent about safety as we would "always have to do more".
He also said that the increase of garda resources over time, including recruitment of new gardaí, would help to deal with the issue of drink driving.
"I am more in favour of increasing our ability to implement the law we have in place and dealing with new areas of behaviour such as drug driving, rather than looking at further changes in relation to sanctions that are there now," he said.
"I am concerned that there are a small group of people, and while it is smaller than it was a number of years ago, that group of people are still there who believe it is acceptable to consume alcohol and get behind the wheel of a car. The message in relation to that kind of behaviour has to be absolutely clear that there is no tolerance for it."
So far this year 131 people have died on Irish roads, 30 fewer deaths than the same period last year. Some 23,752 people have died on Irish roads since records began in 1959.
Liz O'Donnell, chairperson of the RSA, said the organisation was teaming up with its counterpart in the North to "raise awareness of this important day".
"In addition to those who have lost their lives, thousands more have suffered serious, life-changing injuries.
"World Day of Remembrance reminds us how easily tragedy can happen but by making small changes to our behaviour on the roads, we can all help to prevent further tragedy," she added.