An Gardai Siochána has rolled out a new drug driving testing system (Securetec Drugwipe 6s) in time for the Christmas road safety enforcement campaign. The new Securetec Drugwipe 6s is a wide-range drug detection test, described as similar to an antigen test, which, in around 5 minutes can detect a wide range of drugs such as Cannabis, Cocaine, Benzodiazepines and Opiates, as well as Amphetamine and Methamphetamine.
According to Road Safety Authority research, from 2013 - 2017, shows that 29% of drivers killed had a positive toxicology for drugs. Over 2,550 drivers have been arrested to date in 2022 on suspicion of drug driving. That equates to an average of 54 drivers arrested each week this year for driving under the influence of drugs.
Motorists with oral fluid tests positive for Cannabis or Cocaine will be arrested and brought to a Garda station where a blood specimen will be collected and sent to the MBRS for analysis.
Motorists with oral fluid tests positive for Benzodiazepines, Opiates or Amphetamines (including Methamphetamine and MDMA) and if the Garda is of the opinion that they are impaired, will be arrested and brought to the station where a blood specimen will be collected and sent to the MBRS for analysis.
Motorists with an oral fluid test positive for Benzodiazepines, Opiates or Amphetamines (including Methamphetamine) and if the Garda is of the opinion that they are not impaired, are not committing an offence and can drive on. All drug driving offences carry a period of disqualification. In terms of disqualification periods, for those convicted of the offence of being above the threshold of Cannabis, Cocaine with no proof of impairment necessary by the Gardaí, the disqualification period is not less than 1 year for the first offence and not less than 2 years for the second or subsequent offence.
For the existing offence of drug driving, while impaired, the penalty or disqualification period is a minimum of 4 years for a first offence and 6 years for a second or subsequent offence.
If taking prescription medication, drivers need to follow the advice of their prescribing doctor and dispensing pharmacist and must be aware of the level of potential impairment, even temporary, that the medication may cause. This is particularly important if the dosage or brand of that medication is altered. If drivers are in any doubt or have any concerns, speak to your doctor or pharmacist.
Gardai and The Road Safety Authority are highlighting the issue of drug driving ahead of the traditionally concerning Christmas period on the roads. Research by the RSA and An Garda Siochána revealed that over the last five years there were 86 fatalities and 765 serious injuries over the Christmas and New Year period.
Professor Denis Cusack, Director of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS), said: “Combinations of drugs and of drugs and alcohol can have a very serious effect on a person’s safe driving ability which may result in serious injuries or death. We need to address this combined alcohol-and-drugs-driving danger whilst also ensuring drivers continue taking prescribed medications for safe and healthy driving. This enhanced roadside drug testing system, which is to be used from today by An Garda Síóchána is extremely timely as we see a continued increase in drug detection in drivers. In 2016, the MBRS tested 1,113 samples for drugs other than alcohol. By 2021, that figure has increased to 4,321 - a near four-fold increase. While alcohol still remains the most frequently detected intoxicant in driving in Ireland, cannabis is the second most frequently found intoxicant and its detection in drivers is continuing to increase, with cocaine being the third most commonly found intoxicant drug detected.”
Professor Cusack added, “This newly introduced drug testing system (not unlike the Covid antigen test method) can test for Cannabis, Cocaine, Benzodiazepines, Opiates, and in addition Amphetamine and Methamphetamine, at the roadside. The advantages of the new system are that oral fluid collection is very rapid, the test time is reduced to 2-8 minutes, and the device is easily transported with no other device being required to read the drug results. This enhanced roadside drug testing system to be used by the Gardaí is timely as drug use in Irish society continues to increase and diversify which also translates into more dangerous intoxicated driving.”
146 people have died on the roads to date in 2022 – this represents an increase of 27 on the same day last year. Separately, 1,174 people were seriously injured on our roads this year up to 27 November 2022.