Sunday 19 November 2017

Roadside drug-driving tests to be introduced in New Year – Minister Varadkar

Brian Hutton

DRUG-driving tests to be introduced in the New Year will help save lives, cmpaigners claim.

Under the plans, motorists suspected of being under the influence of illegal or prescription drugs will be asked to carry out roadside tests like walking in a straight line and touching fingers above their head.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said any driver who fails the impairment test or who appears to be intoxicated will be arrested and taken to a garda station.

"These new laws will allow us to fast-track measures against drug driving," he said.

"It's already against the law to drive under the influence of drugs, but gardai will soon be able to conduct roadside drug tests.

"This will make it easier to detect and prosecute drug driving."

Legislation to allow for the new testing, the Road Traffic No 3 bill, is currently being drafted and is expected to be brought before the Oireachtas in the New Year.

The laws will also allow the introduction of R plates under a graduated licence system, and pave the way for a plastic card driving licence.

Gardai are already being trained in the new procedures by the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS) and University College Dublin.

The Department of Transport said research is also under way in Ireland, and internationally, to develop a breathalyser-type device which can detect the presence of drugs other than alcohol in the body.

Regina Doherty, Fine Gael Meath East TD, said the roadside drug testing will help to save lives by strengthening the power of gardai to determine whether drivers are under the influence of drugs that would impact on their driving ability.

"While a range of illegal drugs such as cannabis and cocaine have a significant impairing effect on driving, some prescription drugs can also affect one's ability," she said.

"There's an onus on GPs to ensure their patients fully understand the effects of certain medication.

"I would encourage anyone in any doubt about the side effects of medication they may be taking to contact their local doctor or pharmacist."

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