Drug Driving

More drug tests,
  more places, more often

Drug driving is a serious road safety issue. In the last five years approximately 41% of all drivers and motorcyclists killed who were tested, had drugs in their system, with cannabis and stimulants the most common substances detected.

About 18% of drivers and motorcyclists killed in 2015 tested positive to THC, the active component of cannabis. In the past 5 years, approximately 13% of riders and drivers killed, who were tested, had anti-depressants in their system and 11% with stimulant/amphetamine type drugs such as ecstasy, speed and ice.

The TAC drug driving campaigns were launched to support random roadside testing of illegal drugs in December 2004. Since then there have been several drug driving campaigns highlighting police enforcement and showing how drugs impair driving.

Roadside
drug testing

Victoria Police have the right to pull drivers over at any time and test their saliva for traces of illicit drugs including THC, the active component in cannabis, methamphetamine (speed) and ecstasy.

The procedure for random roadside drug testing is:

  • drivers are asked to provide a saliva sample by placing a small absorbent pad on their tongue for a few seconds
  • the sample is analysed at the roadside, this takes about 5minutes
  • drivers with a positive result are asked to undertake a further test
  • if this test is also positive, the sample is sent to a laboratory for confirmation
  • the results of this lab test form the basis for charging the driver

Any driver may be asked to take a saliva test at any time. The saliva tests do not detect prescription drugs or common medications such as cold and flu tablets.

Penalties

If your saliva sample comes back positive, you can be charged.

For a first offence, the authorities can choose to issue an infringement notice or take you to court. If you receive an infringement notice and do not agree with it, you have a time period during which you can choose to go to court, however, if the court finds you guilty, the penalties will be harsher.

Traffic infringement notices are not issued for subsequent drug driving offences. Charges are laid for the offence and the matter is dealt with at court.

See the VicRoads website for details on drug driving penalties.

How do
drugs affect our ability
to drive safely?

Driving under the influence of drugs has become a major focus of police and road safety campaigns over recent years. Like alcohol, many drugs reduce a driver's ability to have full control of a motor vehicle. Drugs have different and profound effects on a person's mood and behaviour depending on the type of drug involved.

Safe driving  requires:

  • alertness
  • clear vision
  • physical coordination
  • quick reactions
  • the ability to make the right decisions under pressure

We have listed below some illegal drugs and their effect on driving:

  • Cannabis and heroin - can slow down a person's reaction time, distort perception of speed and distance and reduce concentration and coordination when driving.
  • Methamphetamine – ecstasy, cocaine and ice - can lead to over-confidence, rash decision making and risk taking, and further, tiredness caused by an inability to sleep can affect a driver's reflexes and concentration.
  • Hallucinogens - affect hearing and sight as well as the perception of time, distance and movement, and they can make a person sense things that don't exist.
  • Multiple drug use - using a combination of drugs can lead to extreme and varied effects such as dramatically slowed reaction times, visual distortion, inability to judge speeds and distances, and risk taking.

Visit the The Alcohol and Drug Foundation for more information on the specific drugs and their effect on driving.

Drug Driving
Campaign FAQ’s

Here we answer some of the common questions asked around drug driving and drug testing in Victoria

Is there anywhere the public can get information on how long illicit substances remain in your system?
The best place to find up-to-date information is the Alcohol & Drug Foundation website. Here you will find answers to most drug-related questions, including how police can also test for impairment.

How long after taking an illicit drug will you provide a negative result?
This is dependent on the person, much like alcohol, people metabolise substances at different rates. We can't say exactly how long a drug remains in a person’s system, we can only provide a guide.

Will you get a positive drug reading if someone nearby is smoking cannabis (second-hand smoke)?
This is highly unlikely. The test uses a saliva sample, so the probability of second-hand smoke affecting a saliva sample is very low.

"Drugs can remain in your system long after the night is over." Does that mean some drivers will return a positive reading even though they are no longer under the influence of these substances?
While the driver may no longer feel the effect of the drug, or feel impaired, the drug may still be present in their system. For example, someone who takes an illicit drug could feel the high for a few hours, and then  ‘come down’ quite sometime later and feel drowsy. This is a side-effect of the drugs leaving their system after the high and is still impairing their ability to drive safely.

Why isn't the law built around people only being under the influence of drugs rather than drugs still being in a person's system?
Taking illicit drugs is an illegal act and people often are not in the right state of mind to be making good judgments about their own levels of impairment when under the influence of drugs.
There are different sections of the law to deal with both of these scenarios:

  • Exceed PCD (oral fluid) is an offence where the oral fluid sample of a driver simply contains this illicit substance. Offence complete 3-month suspension only.
  • Drive while impaired by drugs (Impairment assessment and blood sample) Certificate of Drug effect by approved expert. 12 months disqualification.

Are we prepared to inform people of any rough guidelines regarding the amount of time they should wait before confidently returning a negative reading to particular illicit substances?
The TAC does not condone illegal behaviour such as taking illicit drugs. Because the effects of illicit drugs vary from person to person, we cannot say with any real certainty how long the drugs will remain in one’s system, or how long it would take to return a negative reading.

Where is the best place to report people that I know for certain are driving under the influence of drugs?
If you suspect someone of driving under the influence of drugs, the best thing to do is to contact Crime Stoppers or call 1800 333 000

What about people who are taking prescription medication such as benzodiazepines, this is not an illicit drug but would register as a positive reading in roadside drug tests, how is that fair?
Drivers and riders who are taking medication of this nature are advised not to operate heavy machinery or drive due to the potential dangers involved in doing so.
However, the tests conducted on oral fluid will not return a positive result for any legally obtained medications.
If the driver is impaired while driving, they may still be charged with this offence no matter what types of drugs are in their system unless:

  • The drug was prescribed by a medical professional.
  • The drug was consumed in accordance with all directions given by the medical professional.
  • They could not have reasonably known that their driving would be affected.

How does enforcement help Victoria to move
Towards Zero?

Safe System thinking has been at the core of success for the best performing road safety countries and jurisdictions globally.   This is why all the road safety strategies relevant to Victoria are based on the Safe System.

Within a safe system the road transport system must be designed, built, maintained, operated and used to accommodate human failings that lead to error and consequently to some serious crashes.  Road design must take account of the biomechanics of force in crashes and the limits of the human body to withstand force.  The system should better manage crash forces so they are not beyond the forces the human body can withstand.

For example, installing wire rope barriers which prevent or better manage the forces on the human body in the event of a crash (compared with the forces in rollover crashes or impacts with trees and poles), and setting and enforcing speed limits, can allow road users to use the road without death, even in the event of human error and a crash.

While acknowledging that people make mistakes, enforcement and education remain critical to safe systems. Enforcement reduces forces even when a crash occurs: we must enforce speed limits to reduce speeds which will then reduce the forces in crashes, as well as reducing the risk of a crash.

We must enforce seat-belt, child restraint and helmet use which also reduce injury severity if a crash occurs. Enforcement also reduces the risk of error and crashes by reducing drink-driving, drug driving, fatigue, failure to give way, red light running and more.

More drug test, more places, more often

REACHING
 ZERO

As road users we can’t control everything on our roads and we can’t stop the unexpected but we can control our actions. Together we can work Towards Zero deaths and serious injuries on Victorian roads.

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