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Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 1041 - Drug and alcohol testing [Driving] [34843/17].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 1041 - Drug and alcohol testing [Driving] [34843/17]. (13 Jul 2017)

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1041. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to provide information and clarity to persons living with chronic pain regarding the introduction of the preliminary drug testing measures under the Road Traffic Act 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34843/17]


Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): ​Since the introduction of prelimary testing of drivers for drugs last April, there has been some misreporting of what is involved, which has caused unnecessary worry to some people.


I made clear on the launch of these measures that people should always take their medication as needed.  At the same time, if that medication causes side-effects which might impair their driving, they should not drive until the effects have passed.


It has long been an offence under legislation to drive or be in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant to such an extent as to be incapable of controlling the vehicle.  'An intoxicant' in this case is any substance which would impair driving, whether legal or not, prescribed or not.  There has been no change to this offence under the new drug driving legislation introduced this year.


The provisions of the Road Traffic Act 2016 which came into effect in April create a new offence of being over a specified limit for three drugs, cannabis, cocaine, and heroin.  These limits work exactly like the existing limits for alcohol.


An Garda Síochána may now conduct preliminary tests of oral fluid from drivers for drugs at the roadside or in a garda station.  These tests, like the existing roadside breath tests, are 'preliminary', which means that they are not used as evidence in court, but to assist Gardaí in forming an opinion as to whether a person has taken drugs. 


The drug tests can detect cannabis, cocaine, opiates, and benzodiazepines.  People taking prescription painkillers which are opiate-based, and people taking benzodiazepines, have no reason to be concerned provided that their driving is not actually impaired.

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