Ireland’s parliament is bringing roadside drug testing in to their system of law.
Under the new law, the Irish police force (the gardaí) will soon be able to use a handheld device to test drivers for drugs at the side of the road. The device works in a similar way to how alcohol breath testers work now.
The announcement comes as the Road Safety Authority (RSA) marked a day of remembrance for victims of road crashes all across the world on Monday.
Currently, it is an offence to drive under the influence of drugs but it is up to gardai to prove that a person is in control of a motor vehicle while being under the influence of drugs.
Last year, a driver in Cork, who admitted to smoking two joints of cannabis, had his case dismissed due to lack of evidence as there was no testing procedure or legislation in place to record evidence.
The new legislation will enable the gardaí to conduct roadside tests for drugs, like a breathalyser test. The Medical Bureau of Road Safety is in the process of buying the devices, which are expected to be in use by the end of 2015.
Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said the development “will bring clarity to the area for the first time”.
“By bringing in this legislation, we will be able to underpin the use of devices by roadsides, make them mandatory and put them on a completely solid legal footing,” he said.
Mr Donohoe is bringing details of the Road Traffic Bill 2014 to cabinet for approval in the next few weeks.
So far this year there have been 166 road deaths.
To date, 23,596 people have been killed on Irish roads since records began in 1959, with a further 76,586 receiving serious, life-changing injuries between 1977 and 2013.
Moyagh Murdock, chief executive of the RSA, said it can be hard to imagine the real lives behind the statistics. “For thousands of families around the country, their lives are forever changed as a result of a collision. We can save lives on our roads, and we can make our roads as safe as the safest roads in the world, but we can’t do it unless we all work together,” she said.
While road side drug testing will enable to catch suspects under the influence of drugs while driving we do not think that just this evidence alone will stand up in a court of law. We expect that this test will be used in conjunction with laboratory based drug test analysis to identify long term drug users which will enable the authorities to educate and offer drug rehabilitation to the individual.