Roadside drug testing comes ever closer

By 5 May 2010 158

The Liberal’s Jeremy Hanson is celebrating in principle support in the Legislative Assembly for his Random Roadside Drug Testing bill.

Apparently this is going to build on the “success” of the Victorian legislation in this area.

So what other random searches shall we start up in ever more panicked fear of ourselves?

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158 Responses to
Roadside drug testing comes ever closer
Pork Hunt 4:43 pm
05 May 10

I suppose this will be another excuse for the Mully’s of this world to do a runner when Policeman Plod approaches. In the event that this becomes law, I would bet that a large number of drivers testing positive will also be unreg, unlic and uninsured. Bogans…

p1 4:56 pm
05 May 10

I am interested to know if there is such a thing as “low range” or “high range” readings in this context.

As in, seemed fine but the drug test returned proof there was some in his system, or clearly stoned out if his brain, and tested him to prove it.

Wraith 4:58 pm
05 May 10

So what other random searches shall we start up in ever more panicked fear of ourselves?

Cavity searches for the “Mully” gene.

fgzk 5:08 pm
05 May 10

No there is no consided range of drug. If its there your done.

Pork Hunt. Ill put cash up that the vast majority are employed, licensed, registered and integrated happily in the community. How much you want to bet.

OpenYourMind 5:16 pm
05 May 10

Real roadside drug testing should include a host of legal medications which are much more likely to affect driving. That testing will never happen.

Here’s a report that covers this issue:

farq 5:28 pm
05 May 10

It’s all going to come down to how they calibrate the test.

If someone can get busted on monday morning for a substance they took over the weekend then this is a really bad law that will disproportionally impact on the lives of young adults.

As this is being pushed by some real knuckle dragging conservative politicians, I don’t think they will be too worried about the injustice caused by a high rate of false positives.

Primal 6:38 pm
05 May 10

Random Pop Quiz Of Road Rules.

Get more than one wrong and you’re not allowed to drive again until you’ve retaken the learners test on a laptop at the side of the road.

Jim Jones 6:59 pm
05 May 10

This is great news: I can’t wait to test drugs on the roadside.

Snarky 7:56 pm
05 May 10

The two worst drugs our society has to deal with are tobacco and alcohol – they’re legal (within certain contexts) and more or less freely available. Tobacco doesn’t impair driving ability to the best of my knowledge, but alcohol does. More alcohol testing would be great, lower limits even better, and more convictions once detected would be a trifecta win for me.

Failing that, if you really want to “test” for something else then get out, pull hoon drivers off the road and catch the Mully’s of the world – the disqualified, unlicenced, uninsured b*stards who cause or create the worst accidents.

luther_bendross 9:13 pm
05 May 10

Maybe they could check that people’s indicators are working.

Voice of Reason 11:00 pm
05 May 10

This is seriously flawed policy folks. There’s so many problems with it, I hardly know where to start.

First off … let’s drop the pretence there will be some random element. Roadside drug testing will be too expensive and time consuming for the police to waste precious resources on random testing. Compared with breath testing, the costs are astronomical.

Is it about road safety? No. Of course it isn’t. It’s a policy developed behind an illusion of road safety, just as the Victorian model it supposes to replicate provides nothing but an illusion of road safety. There is zero evidence that the Victorian model, held up by proponents of roadside testing for some drugs, has led to safer roads. In fact a study (the IDRS) of illicit drug users has shown that since the introduction of roadside testing for some drugs in Victoria, the self-reported rate of driving when intoxicated by drugs other than alcohol has not decreased at all. Now call me old fashioned, but a road safety initiative that has been demonstrated to not improve road safety is not a road safety initiative at all.

If you doubt this fact, grab hold of the report of the independent evaluation of the Victorian roadside testing for some drugs programme and see for yourself. What’s that you say … you can’t seem to find an independent evaluation of the Victorian programme? No, well you won’t. You see, there isn’t one. Now ask yourself, “why in the years since its introduction would they not evaluate the impact of this programme on road safety outcomes at a population level?” Good question. If such an evaluation was going to find a positive outcome, there would be a report on every shelf. Instead, Martin Boorman from the Victorian Police [some] Drug Testing Unit has stooped as low as the ‘academically credible peer reviewed and scrupulously above board A Current Affair tv programme’ to espouse the virtues of Victorian [some] drug testing programme and fuel the hand wringing of all those constantly demanding that our nation’s governments get tougher on drugs.

It’ll test for any detectable trace of pot, speed/ice and ‘E’. Test positive for even a minute trace and you’ll be charged with drug driving. It won’t matter whether you or your driving is not the slightest bit affected. Take a couple of ‘E’s on a Friday night out with the lads and ladies, and you will test positive when driving to work on a Monday morning. Why is that a problem? It’s obviously a problem if the best drug driving policy they can come up will also capture those who are not drug driving.

Similarly, there’s obviously a problem if the best drug driving policy they can come up with does not propose to screen drivers for other drugs taken commonly in the community and also commonly linked with vehicle crashes (such as benzodiazepines and other prescription medications, and heroin). According to the IDRS, benzos are easy to get in Canberra either on prescription or on the street. Around half of illicit drug users who enter drug treatment programmes have taken benzos in the month before.

Isn’t heroin a drug capable of impairing driver performance? Of course it is. Why won’t the programme screen drivers for heroin? Because they can’t differentiate it from prescription opioids that people might be taking legally. Why is that a problem? It’s a problem because our bodies and minds don’t differentiate between drugs that we have a prescription for and the drugs that we don’t. If it’s a drug capable of impairing driver performance and therefore capable of impacting on road safety, then any drug driving programme worth a cracker would have it within scope? Why doesn’t the proposed roadside testing for some drugs programme have all drugs within scope? Simple, because “normal people” who drive under the influence of legal drugs would get caught in the net.

Why would it be a problem that “normal people” whose driving is impaired get caught in the net? Well it wouldn’t be a problem if your motivation was road safety. It’d only be a problem if your motivation was political convenience, and if “normal people” weren’t the target of efforts to show the electorate that you’re tough on drugs, committed to road safety, and willing to pursue the users of some drugs (but not others) in order to prove your credentials.

So, will roadside testing for some drugs but not others improve road safety in the ACT? No, it won’t. Even if the resources and extra police necessary to implement it magically appeared, the Victorian evidence suggests that people who currently drug drive will continue to do so at precisely the same rate as they do now. Also, many currently driving under the influence of drugs will continue to do so knowing that the drugs that they take are not pot, speed/ice and ‘E’.

More alarming than that however, is the fact that police will need to be re-assigned from other duties in order to test drivers for some drugs but not others. Undoubtedly, some of the police implementing this garbage would otherwise have been involved in drink driving enforcement … a police initiative proven to make the roads safer with more than two thirds of drivers charged with drink driving never reoffending.

Great policy guys. Take police from an initiative proven to be effective in improving road safety, and redeploy them to an initiative without a scintilla of evidence of road safety improvement. Seriously, why the hell would you want to do that? Oh yeah, politics, of course. Why didn’t I think of that?

vg 11:10 pm
05 May 10

“So what other random searches shall we start up in ever more panicked fear of ourselves?”

I’d love to see you justify that comment to the families of people killed in motor vehicles accidents where drug affectation was a major factor.

I also bet you won’t publish this

One 11:18 pm
05 May 10

How about adding tracking numbers to grog containers so police can track the sellers of grog that ends up in the hands of voilent drunks.

Then publish that to

Funny how the AFP research everything but drugs supplied by people who help with political donations

Clown Killer 11:24 pm
05 May 10

I don’t really have too much of a problem with testing for other substances that might impair drivers. Testing for alcohol is a good thing, so why not testing for other drugs?

Where to from here? There’s plenty of drivers out and about on our roads that are having problems dealing with basic traffic issues regardless. The numerous threads here on RA with queues of people lining up to freely admit that they find it difficulty managing to drive safely when there are other road users such as cyclists about is testimony to the fact that there needs to be greater focus on the overall competency of drivers.

One 11:29 pm
05 May 10

“Its not your fault, your drunk mate”

So where is the public transport?

Is this another round of police cars getting funding for the Government?

How about a law that sees members of political parties gaoled for their part in accepting secret donations, to write one sided laws which never hold the commissioner responsibile for allowing a all-you-can-drink-society of $Millions in druken abuse where intoxicated members of this select society have a right to assault any victims that are legaly required by ACT Government law to defend their lives while taking care not to harm the drunk attempting to smash in the victims skull?

Every drunk gets a reward to help their lives

The assault victim gets taken to court by the ACT Government

One 11:32 pm
05 May 10

Court awards assetts of dead person to Government for covering cost of disposal

Medical tests, etc = your IP is also given away without your consent

cleo 1:23 am
06 May 10

Yay about time!

Special G 8:33 am
06 May 10

That’s some interesting comments Mr voice of reason although part of your reasoning is fairly flawed. Drug testing would be administered by the same Police administering breath screening. General Duties and traffic for the most part.

Also given that possession of all of the drugs tested for is an offence in itself it is like catching you for possession after you took them. Basically what it is saying is taking drugs are bad mmkay.

Jim Jones 9:11 am
06 May 10

vg said :

I’d love to see you justify that comment to the families of people killed in motor vehicles accidents where drug affectation was a major factor.

Using emotional blackmail as an argumentative technique – how classy. Reminds me of Stephen Conroy’s argument that anyone who is against his internet filtering proposal is in favour of child pr0n.

For a start, what are the stats on confirmed links between fatal vehicle accidents and drug affectation (other than alcohol)?

Secondly, how do you propose to distinguish between positive results due to drugs currently active in the system, and those that come up positive due to residual traces (THC – the active ingredient of cannabis – remains in the human system for 3 to 90 days after ingestion)?

And really, how effective a use of police time is roadside drug testing?

The legislation is clearly being pushed by “knuckle dragging conservative politicians” (astutely phrased above) who don’t care about the effect on road safety. They’re interested in appearing to be ‘tough on crime’ and having a ‘war on drugs’ (and appealing to the lowest common denominator) rather than looking for effective policy. This is particularly evident by the fact that cleo is in favor of this plan (Let us note that cleo is on record as stating that: (a) marijuana use causes people to go insane, (b) snuff is cocaine, (c) Charles Lutwidge Dodgson wrote Alice in Wonderland in 1865 under the influence of LSD, despite the fact that LSD wasn’t synthesised until the 1950s).

“Drugs are bad, mmkay”.

fgzk 10:21 am
06 May 10

Specail G ” administered by the same Police administering breath screening.”

Yes an interesting point indeed. How could this distract from screening drunk drivers. I see it this way. The same police now have to administer two tests. Twice the time testing. For each positive test for say pot the same policeman has to retest and process the driver. I wonder what the statistics are on drunk drivers being waved past the testing point while this goes on. I would hazard a guess that road side testing will actually decrease the amount of DUI’s under the influence of alcohol. Too me that would mean a greater number of drunks on our roads happily waved on.

ConanOfCooma 10:33 am
06 May 10

I thought THC was broken down in under 48 hours, and the police tested for the metabolised by-products of that breakdown?

Jim Jones 11:06 am
06 May 10

The active ingredient THC is detectable in the urine after 48-72 hours in a one-off or occasional user or up to 6 weeks in a heavy user.

fgzk 11:24 am
06 May 10

If the VIC experience is anything to go buy then we would could expect a 1:54 ratio of drivers tested recording a positive result for drugs. This compares to a ratio of 1:162 for drink driving offenders. Roughly that would equate to three times the police resources in processing. With the same police resources for testing this must increase your chance of getting waved on thus keeping more drunks on our roads.

I suppose that the police will be doubling all their resources to combat the out of control carnage that drugs are causing on Canberra’s roads.

sloppery 11:34 am
06 May 10

fgzk said :

I suppose that the police will be doubling all their resources to combat the out of control carnage that drugs are causing on Canberra’s roads.

On a more serious note, do we actually have any stats relating to drug involvement in motr vehicle accidents?

54-11 11:54 am
06 May 10

I’m all for it. As a motorbike rider, I’m daily at risk from dickheads talking on their mobile phones, who are unable to change lanes properly, and are incapable of indicating.

Who knows how many of these lowlife car drivers are also impaired in other ways. At least a few of the higher risk ones may be removed from the roads, making us all a bit safer.

dvaey 12:22 pm
06 May 10

Snarky said :

The two worst drugs our society has to deal with are tobacco and alcohol – they’re legal (within certain contexts) and more or less freely available. Tobacco doesn’t impair driving ability to the best of my knowledge, but alcohol does.

If you suck down a ciggy quickly then jump behind the wheel, youre not gonna be 100% coherent, probably have at the very least a bit of headspin.

vg said :

I’d love to see you justify that comment to the families of people killed in motor vehicles accidents where drug affectation was a major factor.

Exactly how many is this? You seem to know the figures involved, and since they arent being published would you care to share your information? Or do you just like using the emotive arguments, without any real facts to back it up? Im more worried about the unroadworthy, dangerous, untrained drivers than the large percentage of drivers who will test positive to smoking a joint in the last month.

This story keeps popping up in the news, but I never hear anything about how theyve fixed the problems that stopped it becoming law in the past. The ACT has looked at testing before and rejected it because none of the current testing methods is accurate enough to be presented in a court of law. Every few months the media jumps on the issue, maybe in the hope that ACT govco will forget the legal reasons it wasnt passed before, and simply pass the law as a knee-jerk reaction to media frenzy.

Another thought comes to mind too, how do police screen for the myriad of drivers who were brought up diagnosed with ADD/ADHD (isnt that every kid these days?) and have been prescribed amphetamine drugs for the treatment and management of their condition. Will those drivers be issued a ‘get out of DUI free’ card by the doctor/pharmacist? What about all the medications which warn on the box ‘do not operate a vehicle while using this medication’? Should pharmacists be demanding to see a drivers licence which they enter the details of into a computer, so the licence is cancelled for the week the driver is on the drugs?

Im honestly a lot more scared of the public servant who drank 10 cups of coffee in the afternoon before leaving work to drive through rush-hour traffic, than the guy who had a joint or an eccy over the weekend. Why dont we test all drivers who report to ED after an accident, for caffeine, tobacco and other stimulants/depressants. I bet that 80% of drivers involved in an accident have caffeine in their system, therefore we should ban it.. after all as vg says, do you want to be the police officer having to tell someone their family member is dead because someone got hopped up on a latte?

fgzk 12:43 pm
06 May 10

I know I have presented skewed statistics due to the targeted nature of Victorian drug testing. One statistic that I do find compelling is that in 2006 the ACT had the lowest road fatalities in Australia and all of the OECD Nations. Yes we are good drivers after all.

davey I’m assured that ADHD drugs do not give a positive result. The only downside to that is a lot of ADHD people do use other illegal drugs because they find that it helps manage their condition.

One 12:49 pm
06 May 10

So will the police remove Drug affected Drivers from the roads – Answer is NO.

Are you on any medication?


So how come Police do NOT look at Medicare Cards for medications that affect a drivers ability?

So how come the Intoxicated Government lets Drug affected Government workers destroy peoples lives?

jasere 12:53 pm
06 May 10

I can’t wait for this I know a few people that dabble in that kind of thing and they are sh%$ing them self’s about it and their argument is the same crap see here

the way I see it MOST of the sheep that are against it are low life junkies. don’t care if its once a week or once a month or even what it is

grow up or your going down MooAHAHAHA

Jim Jones 1:14 pm
06 May 10

54-11 said :

At least a few of the higher risk ones may be removed from the roads, making us all a bit safer.

If you believe that, you’ll believe anything.

The same legislation was passed in Victoria and has absolutely no effect whatsoever.

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