Thursday 19 April 2018

More drivers caught using drugs as roadside tests to rise

Treacy Hogan Environment Correspondent

GROWING numbers of motorists are driving under the influence of cannabis and other illegal drugs, a new report will reveal today.

And authorities are planning to roll out a medical device similar to breathalysers to test drivers for drug use but not until next year at the earliest.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar and Professor Denis Cusack of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety will jointly publish the report into the incidence of drug driving and the use of devices to check for drugs this afternoon.

It is expected to give the green light for the eventual use of a drug detection device to check for a variety of drugs, in the medium term, after further studies on the best device available on the market.

It is also expected to indicate an increase in the incidence of drugs driving.

In the meantime, gardai will have to wait until next year before they can start the alternative US-style roadside impairment tests for drugs.

These roadside tests were due to be in place earlier this year, and thousands of gardai were trained how to operate them.

However, the Government discovered that the legislation to introduce the tests was not strong enough to withstand a legal challenge.

New legislation is currently being drawn up before they can be rolled out, probably sometime next year.

The five key tests that will be performed on suspect drugs drivers are:

• Gardai examining the driver's eyes, especially the size of the pupil.

• The driver being asked to stand with eyes closed to see if they start swaying.

• The driver attempting to walk a straight line without stumbling.

• The driver standing on one leg, then turning around.

• The driver touching their nose with a finger, with eyes open and then eyes closed.

Gardai who think 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 to submit to a blood or urine sample.

In 2009, a total of 5,355 blood and urine samples from suspected drink drivers were passed to gardai, with 1,945 found to be under the legal alcohol limit.

But when the 1,945, plus another 35 samples, were examined further, 73pc proved positive for drugs.

Irish Independent

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