GARDAÍ are to begin testing motorists for drug use from next Wednesday.
Using special drug detection kits, the preliminary drug testing will indicate the use of cannabis, cocaine, opiates and benzodiazepines.
The power to collect saliva samples for drug testing kicks in on April 12.
Ahead of the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Garda Síochána are appealing to road-users to act responsibly when travelling on the roads.
In particular, road-users are being urged to be aware of the dangers of driving under drugs and alcohol.
“Driving under the influence of drugs is a problem in Ireland,” Moyagh Murdock, Chief Executive, Road Safety Authority said this week, revealing that a study from the Coroners District in Kildare during 1998 and 2009 found that almost one in ten drivers killed had a positive toxicology for a drug or drugs.
“Furthermore, the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS) found that out of the 9,734 specimens of blood and urine tested for the presence of a drug or drugs between the years 2009-2015, 6,232 or 64%, tested positive,” she continued.
Assistant Commissioner Michael Finn, Roads Policing, An Garda Síochána, said drug-driving is one of the most dangerous offences that can be committed on our roads.
“The introduction of Preliminary Drug Testing on April 12 will give An Garda Síochána the same tools to tackle drug driving as are in place to tackle drink driving,” he said.
“I have no doubt that more drug drivers will be apprehended as a result of this new power.”
Assistant Commissioner Finn said the gardaí would be out in force over the holiday weekend protecting local communities from these drivers.
“We want everyone to enjoy the Easter Bank Holiday weekend without fear of meeting a driver impaired on either drugs, alcohol or both.
“Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs doesn’t happen by chance. It happens by choice and is an incredibly selfish and dangerous thing to do - not only are you putting your own life at risk, you’re putting other people’s lives at risk.”
To help drivers stay alert behind the wheel over the Bank Holiday Weekend, the RSA and Applegreen will provide free cups of coffee to drivers between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Friday April 14 and Monday April 17 at participating service stations. Simply say ‘RSA’ or ‘Driver Reviver’ to the till operator to avail of a free coffee. A list of participating stations is available at www.applegreenstores.com/ie/locations
To date this year, 47 people have been killed on Irish roads, an increase of 4 when compared to the same period last year.
New ‘preliminary’ drug test
The new powers will enable gardaí to conduct ‘Preliminary Drug Testing’ at the roadside or in Garda stations. This allows the Gardaí to establish checkpoints for testing drivers for drugs with similar powers to existing alcohol testing checkpoints. This system will allow Gardaí to test a driver’s saliva for cannabis, cocaine, opiates (for example, heroin, morphine) and benzodiazepines (for example, Valium).
Drivers with medical conditions should continue to take their prescribed medications in accordance with healthcare advice and medical fitness-to-drive guidelines, which can be viewed at http://www.rsa.ie/RSA/Licensed-Drivers/Safe-driving/Medical-Issues/ .
“But be aware of how the drugs you are taking might affect your ability to drive,” the RSA is advising.
It continues: “If you are taking prescription or over-the-counter medicines under the advice of your GP or pharmacist, and so long as those medicines don’t impair your driving, you have nothing to be concerned about.
“If you are in any doubt, speak to your GP or pharmacist about your concerns.
“A statutory medical exemption certificate is allowed for in the law for people who have been prescribed medicinal cannabinoids (medicinal marijuana). If this applies to you, you should carry the medical certificate with you while driving.”