Random Drug Testing & Driving while having present in the blood or urine the Prescribed Illicit Drug. New South Wales has joined Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia in the fight against Drug Driving.
Commencing on 15th December 2006 new legislation by the New South Wales Parliament gave Police powers to carry out Random Drug Testing on drivers in New South Wales. This legislation also created new laws for the compulsory taking of blood and urine tests of drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle accidents, or accidents where a person although not killed, it is more likely than not, that such person will die within 30 days as a consequence of the accident. The effect of this legislation is that if a driver is involved in a fatal road crash, then such person will be arrested by police for the purposes of being taken to a hospital and having blood and urine taken to test for the presence of drugs.
Random Drug Testing is carried out in much the same way as Random Breath Testing for Drink Drivers except that it is set up to detect people who are driving after having taken illicit drugs.
The testing device used by police is a test pad which the driver is required to lick and which will react to the presence of Cannabis, Amphetamine or ecstasy.
If this test proves “positive” the driver will be required to undergo a second screening test in a police drug testing support vehicle generally located at the scene. If this second test proves positive, the driver will be prohibited from driving for 24 hours and the remaining oral fluid sample from the second test will then be sent off to the Government Analytical Laboratory for analysis. If that result comes back positive, then the driver can expect a Court Attendance Notice to attend court and be prosecuted.
Drivers who engage in the consumption of illicit drugs should be aware of this legislation because they can not only be prosecuted and subjected to a likely loss of their licence with penalties similar to those of Low Range drink driving, but can also be severely inconvenienced if caught Drug Driving a long distance from home, because they will be ordered by Police to not drive for a period of 24 hours.
Besides the offence of Drug Driving, it is also an offence for a driver to fail or refuse to undergo an oral fluid test in accordance with the directions of an officer.
It is an offence if an illicit drug is detected as being present and police can arrest and take the person to a police station or other prescribed premises in order to carry out the necessary tests on the person, whether it be obtaining a further oral sample for analysis or sample of urine or blood.
If a blood or urine test discloses the presence of Heroin or Cocaine, then this legislation also provides for prosecuting for the presence of these drugs also.
This legislation is aimed at keeping “drug drivers” off the roads.
It goes without saying, that drivers affected by drugs, like alcohol, will have their driving skills affected in one way or other. Those affected by cannabis will in all probability have their judgment and concentration affected. This will affect their ability to react appropriately in whatever situation should arise on the road. Those drivers that are affected by such illicit drugs as speed or ecstasy are known to take risks which they otherwise would not take. They can also show aggression on the road which can lead to major traffic problems, not to mention road rage.
How Prevalent is Drug Driving in NSW?
A study by the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority in 2003, showed that 43% of a sample of drug users in New South Wales, admitted having driven a motor vehicle while affected by drugs.
A report in 1999 showed that 24% of drivers killed on New South Wales roads in 1997 and 1998 had drugs in their system.
It is important to note that since the introduction of Drug Testing in Victoria on 13th December 2004 and up until 12th December 2006, they have carried out 24,413 roadside drug tests of which 479 were confirmed drug drivers. The statistics set out on the website shows that 81% of all offenders were male with an average age of 26yrs and 39yrs for offending truck drivers. They also reveal that 67% of these offenders had used methylamphetamine only and another 22% had a combination of methylamphetamine and cannabis.
As at 2 December, 2007 there have been 44,062 drivers tested for drugs throughout metropolitan and regional Victoria since the inception of the program. There have been 809 positive readings or a 1:54 ratio of drivers tested recording a positive result. This compares to a ratio of 1:162 for drink driving offenders.
It is recognized from studies that have been done, that when a person first smokes a “joint” the concentration of THC (the active ingredient in Cannabis), rises to well over 70 nanograms and maybe up to 100 nanograms, but quickly drops back to about 20 nanograms and reduces further with time. An exacerbated problem arises when a person combines cannabis with alcohol and drives a motor vehicle. A blood alcohol of 0.04 combined with one joint equates to a person having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.140 resulting in the risk of having an accident, being increased by a factor of 48.