Gardaí are to get new powers to test for drug driving at checkpoints. The Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has confirmed that tenders will issue early next year for a new roadside device to test motorists for illegal drugs and medicines that can impair driving.
The device will test a driver’s saliva for the presence of illegal drugs, and if the sample is found to be positive, the driver will be brought to a Garda Station for a blood sample for further analysis.
To date, it has been difficult for the Gardai to detect drug driving as it is more challenging to test for than alcohol. This is due to multiple substances being tested for and the quantities consumed. Minister Varadkar believes a number of roadside devices which are available to the Medical Bureau of Road Safety to test for samples from drivers for intoxicants will withstand legal scrutiny.
The new legislation being introduced in the New Year for roadside drug testing will strengthen the legal provisions relating to driving in an impaired state after taking drugs. Drug driving is currently an offence but the legislation does not specify an allowable level nor does it distinguish between legal and illegal substances. It simply states there must be a proven impairment due to a drug.
Equipment can test for some, but not all, of the seven most commonly detected drugs so impairment tests will still be required. The drugs most commonly detected in motorists are Cannabis and benzodiazepines. The benzodiazepine class includes prescription medicines such as diazepam and alprazolam while other drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamines, amphetamines, opiates and methadone are also detected.
Prosecution for drug driving is based on proof of an intoxicant being found and evidence from a Garda that the motorist’s ability to drive was impaired. Cannabis and benzodiazepines are the drugs most commonly detected in motorists, but others include cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamines, opiates and methadone.
The news comes as road deaths in Ireland have reached over 188 so far this year, an increase on road deaths last year.