New measures under the Road Traffic Act, 2016 which provide for Preliminary Drug Testing came into effect on 12th April 2017.
These measures will enable Gardaí to establish Mandatory Impairment Checkpoints (MIT) at the roadside, to test drivers whom they suspect of driving under the influence of drugs.
The new drug testing devices (Dräger DrugTest 5000) involve testing a sample of a driver’s saliva for the presence of cannabis, cocaine, opiates (e.g. heroin, morphine) and benzodiazepines (e.g. valium). There will be 86 drug screening devices located in Garda stations nationally,50 more will be available for use at the roadside. They work by placing a swab stick in the mouth of a motorist to gather saliva. This stick is then placed in a small machine and after approximately eight minutes it will determine if it has tested either ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ for the four drug types.
The new testing regime will be targeted at young male drivers. According to Assistant Garda Commissioner Michael Finn, this age group had been found to be most prone to drug-driving. Research by the Medical Bureau of Road Safety found that 24% of 3,020 specimens of blood and urine tested in 2016 proved positive for drugs other than alcohol. Of these, 91% were from male drivers, most of whom were aged 17-44.
Levels will be set for cannabis, cocaine and heroin, which will mean that if drivers go over those limits Gardaí will not have to prove impairment of driving. A different approach will be taken for prescribed or over the counter drugs. It will only be an offence if there is a confirmed presence of these drugs with impairment of driving.
The Traffic Corps personnel have been trained in the use of the drug testing devices with the intention that the entire Garda force will ultimately be trained in using the devices.
On conviction for drug driving, the penalties include;
– minimum 1-year driving disqualification if you are found to be above the legal threshold for cocaine, cannabis or heroin;
– minimum of 4 years driving disqualification if you are found to have drugs in your body and are impaired to such an extent that you do not have proper control of a vehicle;
– fine up to €5,000;
– up to 6 months in prison.
The drugs don’t work……