Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 286 - Garda data [29832/17] [Drug driving].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 286 - Garda data [29832/17] [Drug driving]. (27 Jun 2017)

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286. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí in each of the Cork divisions who had been trained and were in a position to test for drug driving on 13 April 2017, 30 April 2017, 31 May 2017 and currently; the number of tests that have been carried out in each Cork division; and the number of positive results identified by those dates, in tabular form. [29832/17]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I have requested the specific information sought by the Deputy from the Garda authorities and will contact the Deputy directly on receipt of a Garda report.


While An Garda Síochána has been testing Irish drivers for drugs, with the assistance of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS), since 1999, the Deputy will be aware that my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, commenced the drug driving provisions in the Road Traffic Act 2016 on 12 April 2017. One of the key measures in the legislation provides for Preliminary Drug Testing, which enables Gardaí to test motorists at the roadside, whom they suspect of driving under the influence of drugs, and An Garda Síochána can now establish roadside checkpoints, known as Mandatory Impairment Checkpoints (MITs), to test drivers for the presence of both alcohol and drugs.


The new drug testing devices (Dräger DrugTest 5000) involve testing a sample of a driver’s oral fluid (saliva) for the presence of cannabis, cocaine, opiates (e.g. heroin, morphine) and benzodiazepines (e.g. valium). The new devices will also be available in Garda stations. The MBRS has found that of the 3,020 specimens of blood and urine that it received in 2016, 24% confirmed positive for drugs other than alcohol. Of these, 91% were specimens from male drivers, most of whom were in the 17-44 year age range. Cannabis was the most prevalent drug detected, followed by benzodiazepines.


At the recent meeting of the Ministerial Committee on Road Safety in May this year, the MBRS informed the committee that a tender for new preliminary breath testing equipment is now live and it is hoped that all stages of the process will be completed by early 2018. New equipment, which is available in the market place, has the capacity to record the time, GPS location and number of persons breath-tested, and has the capacity to download the information automatically, reducing the chances of errors occurring in the data.


To support the introduction of Preliminary Drug Testing, I am advised that the Road Safety Authority is running a comprehensive online media campaign, targeting the use of illicit drugs in the 18 to 34 year old age bracket, to raise awareness of the new Garda drug-testing powers. This campaign will primarily feature videos which demonstrate how the drug tests will be administered on the road side and the consequences should a driver be detected driving under the influence of drugs. This awareness campaign will run on social media, radio and digital platforms. The Road Safety Authority is also running a parallel campaign, aimed at allaying the concerns of those taking medicines and driving (over the counter and prescription drugs). Specifically, the Road Safety Authority is putting information leaflets into pharmacies and doctors’ surgeries nationwide.


It is estimated that drug driving is a factor in approximately one in ten fatal crashers. Drug driving not only puts the driver at risk but also passengers and other road users. The introduction of Preliminary Drug Testing strengthens the ability of Gardaí to tackle drug driving and I welcome this important statutory enforcement provision.

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