Although mobile drug testing has been present on roads all over Australia, managing the increasing number of drug users driving under the influence has necessitated state governments taking new kinds of action.
New reforms introduced by the New South Wales government have resulted in the mobile drug testing being bolstered through several means. As well as the addition of cocaine to the list, the NSW state government is committed to doubling the number of roadside drug tests from 100,000 currently in 2018 to 200,000 a year by 2020.
These law reforms were formed after increasing drug-related driver deaths on the road in 2017. This is most evident in preliminary data that shows that drug affected drivers caused 42 deaths in the first half of 2017 as a result of 36 fatal accidents. Data has also shown that 231 fatal crashes occurred from 2012 to 2016, resulting in 250 deaths.
Maximum penalties have also increased for drug drivers. If found guilty of a drug driving related offense, drivers will face up to two years imprisonment, a fine of up to $5,500 and a license disqualification of up to 5 years (which is the equivalent of high range drink driving).
Drugs currently being tested
The list of illegal drugs currently picked up by roadside testing in NSW have previously included MDMA (otherwise known as ecstasy), amphetamines (“ïce”), and cannabis.
It is important to consider that prescription medications also impair driving. Manyillegal drugs are chemically related to pharmaceutical medications available on the market today –dextroamphetamine, as prescribed for ADHD, is nonetheless an amphetamine, while pain medications like oxycodone are strong opiates that possess many of the same qualities as heroin.
This is affirmed by State Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who states “there are prescription drugs that may significantly impair the performance of drivers.” It is thus important when driving to consider any and all kinds of medications you are taking that may result in danger on the road.
As a means to commit to managing this kind of uncertainty, Ms Berejiklian went on to state “We need to ensure that drivers are not impaired and a risk to others on the road. We will be seeking advice from police and road safety and medical experts on the appropriate restrictions to balance the need of people taking medication and the safety of the broader community on the road.”
The testing process
The testing process in NSW involves police pulling over a driver and asking them to submit to a saliva test. Police have the right to pull over any driver they wish to, and this is often performed randomly.
In the event of a positive result, the driver will immediately be placed under arrest and taken to a police station. A secondary swab will then be performed at the police station or an alternate testing facility to ensure the reading of the first swab was accurate.
If this follow up swab also reads back positive, the driver will be issued a suspension from driving for 24 hours and the second sample will be sent off to a government lab where it will undergo very precise testing.
If this test is then proved to be completely accurate, the driver will be charged with drug driving and receive a court attendance notice.
Uncertainty related to legality
Problems have historically been related to the process of mobile drug testing. While testing for alcohol can pick up the actual levels of alcohol in an individual’s blood, mobile drug testing can pick up even minute traces of drugs in someone’s saliva or blood.
Because minute traces can be detected, it can mean that someone may not necessarily be under the influence of any detectable drug, even if their result picks up an illegal drug in their system. This will not stop them from being arrested and charged if traces of any of the currently targeted illegal drugs are found in their system.
Looking to safer roads in New South Wales
In addition to these new drug reforms, the state government also plans to introduce a number of measures that promote safety in different ways. These include cutting costs of licenses for safe drivers, doubling high visibility policing on the roads and investing speed camera avenue into road safety initiatives.
In the event that you are involved in a motor accident, regardless of whether it is a drug or alcohol related accident, make sure to approach it in the most effective and sensible way possible. In the event that you are involved in an accident, make sure to contact Paramount Law for the best legal advice available.