Suspected drug drivers to be put through series of roadside tests
SUSPECTED drug drivers will face five separate roadside tests as gardai are being trained to combat the growing problem.
The first batch of gardai have just qualified as drugs testers from UCD, the Irish Independent has learned.
Another group will begin their course today at the college's School of Medicine.
The plan is to have 80 qualified gardai instructors training more than 9,000 others in roadside drug testing of drivers.
And suspected drug drivers will face a battery of roadside tests to help ascertain if they are under the influence of substances that impair driving.
The five key tests that will be performed on suspect 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.
Drivers who pass the drink-driving breath test but appear intoxicated cannot currently be checked for drugs at the roadside.
The roadside testing for suspected drug drivers is due to start from September.
Prof Denis Cusack, head of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety, the body in charge of the training, warned yesterday that increasing numbers of motorists were driving under the influence of illegal drugs.
Cannabis was the most common, followed by tranquillisers, cocaine and opiates such as heroin, he said.
Prof Cusack said the training involved a range of legal and practical issues relating to the first ever roadside drugs driving test in Ireland.
He said gardai would be given specific instructions to ensure that there was a standardised approach to the testing.
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 and will be prosecuted if they test positive for illegal substances.
Under the new legislation, a driver who refuses to submit to the roadside test can be fined €5,000 and jailed for six months.
The planned introduction of the test in September will coincide with the introduction of lower drink-drive limits, down from 80mg to 50mg for most motorists and to 20mg for learners and professional drivers.
The first on-the-spot drink driving disqualification will be introduced at the same time.
This means that a motorist caught with an alcohol level between 50mg to 80mg will not have to go to court.
They will instead be given the option of accepting what is termed an administrative disqualification. This involves a six-month ban and four penalty points.