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Police nab more drug-affected drivers, fewer drink drivers

By Canfan 9 February 2015 21

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As part of its multi-agency road safety strategy, ACT Policing actively targeted drink and drug-affected drivers between November and January.

In the last three months, Police conducted 45,014 roadside random breath tests which identified 163 drink-drivers and 508 roadside drug tests, identifying 82 drug impaired drivers.

During the same period last year, ACT Policing caught 301 drunk drivers and 48 drug impaired drivers.

Officer-in-Charge of Traffic Operations, Station Sergeant Rod Anderson said results over the Summer period were mixed.

“It’s pleasing that for the fourth straight Summer period the number of drivers apprehended for drink-driving is down, however the rise in drivers detected under the influence of illicit drugs is disappointing,” Sergeant Anderson said.

“Perhaps drivers are starting to get the message about drink driving, but we want motorists to know that driving under the influence of drugs is potentially fatal – not just for you but for everyone around you on the road.”

“Drug and alcohol impaired drivers pose the highest risk on our roads. By removing alcohol and drug impaired drivers from our roads, overall community safety is improved and the potential for serious or fatal accidents is greatly reduced.”

“The results over the past three months should be a warning to drivers – if you drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, we will catch you.”

Incoming Officer-in-Charge of Traffic Operations, Station Sergeant Susan Ball announced that ACT Policing will now focus on targeting speeding motorists during February.

(ACT Policing media release)


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Police nab more drug-affected drivers, fewer drink drivers
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Spiral 9:02 pm 15 Feb 15

As it is claimed Pot isn’t a problem as it makes drivers go slower and be more careful, I’d hate to see what this guy would have been driving like if he wasn’t high at the time!

http://www.news.com.au/national/nsw-act/p-plater-kayden-james-lawson-high-on-pot-in-200kmh-f3-crash/story-fnii5s3x-1227216190625

Aeek 5:00 pm 14 Feb 15

chewy14 said :

tooltime said :

Chewy,

Mate I’ve gone inside these pubs over the last three years on a Friday/Saturday night with a police car parked out front: Tarago, Gundaroo, Bredbo, Murrumbateman, Tigers at Queanbeyan, Bemboka & Nimmitabel.

Gone in, had one quick one then had a meal/chat with locals/family then left. Gone 200m up the road – RBT, every single time. I say ” surely when people see you parked out front they get smart?” Cop says “mate, you’d be surprised how many stupid people there are” we have a laugh and I go on my merry way. Pretty sure if I was pinging/bloodshot eyes/ dilated pupils they’d be breaking out the swab gear.

Exactly my point.

All those examples are NSW. When I travel interstate, I am stunned by the amount of police I see.
Here, it seems to be about metrics and having spent the budget on TV/radio.

Narcobear 1:21 am 14 Feb 15

@Felix the cat – I have provided some reading material below if you are interested. The data is incomplete and I am sure it lends itself to manipulation by both sides of the argument. But an informed argument is far more productive than appealing to an anachronistic legal code that has proven to be inadequate and unjust.

Correlative population studies suggest a dose dependant increased Odds Ratio of culpability and both accident frequency and fatality in road accidents of around 2-3x the control population (Hall W, Hommel R “Reducing cannabis-impaired driving: is there sufficient evidence for drug testing of drivers?, http://www.griffith.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/188756/reducing-cannabis.pdf).

This compares to a 6-15 fold increase in risk for alcohol consumption. The weakness of the methodology of this type of study is that confounding factors (increased crash risk and cannabis use among specific age/sex demographics etc) are difficult to extract. The authors of this piece (from UQ School of Population Health and the Griffith University Key Centre for Ethics, Law Justice and Governance) go on to dispute the efficacy and fairness of the random salivary drug screening regime – this is a well written and concise source that raises many of the concerns I share with the authors regarding this issue. It is worth a read if anyone is interested.

NORML (an organisation dedicated to legislative reform around cannabis) have a an excellent summary of the available studies here (http://norml.org/library/item/marijuana-and-driving-a-review-of-the-scientific-evidence)

Another comprehensive report is available from the Australasian College of Road Safety in conjunction with the Monash University Accident Research Centre (http://acrs.org.au/files/arsrpe/RS010054.pdf). I have cherry picked some comments that support my viewpoint, however the overall report is informative and worthy of perusal.

– “Cannabis did not have a dramatic influence on driving performance. Cannabis reduced mean speed, which was interpreted as the participants being aware of their impairment, and adjusting their performance to make the task easier, thereby compensating for the effects of cannabis by reducing speed.”
– “People experiencing the effects of cannabis appear to be aware of their impairment and where possible they compensate by, for example, slowing down, focussing attention and not taking risks (like overtaking). ”
-“The failure to observe a direct relationship between plasma THC levels and the time course and magnitude of subjective, physiological and behavioural effects brings into question the value in attempting to relate measures of cannabis -related driving impairment to blood THC levels”

In summary, stoners are more cautious and considerate drivers and if we all toked up before hitting the Parkway in the rush hour we may not see as many rear enders.

PS: If any of you chose to research the facts on your own I caution you to regard any contributions to the field by J. Copeland with a healthy measure of skepticism. She is a well published academic, but a rabid anti drug campaigner with an evidently prejudiced approach.

@Mysteryman -The length of the bow drawn does not correlate with the accuracy of the arrow
@@felix the cat – sky diving is also a recreational activity, which carries with it certain risks and dangers yet it is permitted. Anecdotally i hear drugs can be fun, spiritually enlightening and life enhancing when used responsibly despite the politically acceptable public catechism.

*I in no way mean to disrespect those who have been hurt or who care about those who have been hurt by the consequences of irresponsible drug use. *

chewy14 7:41 pm 13 Feb 15

tooltime said :

Chewy,

Mate I’ve gone inside these pubs over the last three years on a Friday/Saturday night with a police car parked out front: Tarago, Gundaroo, Bredbo, Murrumbateman, Tigers at Queanbeyan, Bemboka & Nimmitabel.

Gone in, had one quick one then had a meal/chat with locals/family then left. Gone 200m up the road – RBT, every single time. I say ” surely when people see you parked out front they get smart?” Cop says “mate, you’d be surprised how many stupid people there are” we have a laugh and I go on my merry way. Pretty sure if I was pinging/bloodshot eyes/ dilated pupils they’d be breaking out the swab gear.

Exactly my point.

knuckles 4:03 pm 13 Feb 15

Dreadnaught1905 said :

Can anyone give any insight into how the police choose to perform a roadside drug screening?
!

They start off by offering the driver a Mars Bar, a packet of Twisties and a vanilla milkshake. If they polish the lot off in under 2 minutes they then carry out a “random” drug test.

Dreadnaught1905 3:07 pm 13 Feb 15

Can anyone give any insight into how the police choose to perform a roadside drug screening?

Narcobear has indicated a belief that the police profile people, and that’s why the percentages of positive results are so much higher for drug impaired drivers than alcohol impaired ones. If this is the case, (and I haven’t seen any evidence either way to suggest that they do or do not profile people) then how do the police apply this profile in the field?

Do they sit outside the National Folk Festival screening all who drive away? Do they do it as part of a standard RBT stop, and only apply the ‘swab stick’ to those with diluted pupils, or those who are driving cars from the 80’s?

I’m genuinely curious as to how such profiling could take place.

Also – if they are profiling people, and their profiles are wrong 84% of the time, then they need a new method!

tooltime 2:45 pm 13 Feb 15

Chewy,

Mate I’ve gone inside these pubs over the last three years on a Friday/Saturday night with a police car parked out front: Tarago, Gundaroo, Bredbo, Murrumbateman, Tigers at Queanbeyan, Bemboka & Nimmitabel.

Gone in, had one quick one then had a meal/chat with locals/family then left. Gone 200m up the road – RBT, every single time. I say ” surely when people see you parked out front they get smart?” Cop says “mate, you’d be surprised how many stupid people there are” we have a laugh and I go on my merry way. Pretty sure if I was pinging/bloodshot eyes/ dilated pupils they’d be breaking out the swab gear.

Felix the Cat 1:32 pm 13 Feb 15

So Narcobear, you are saying that there is no scientific evidence that (some) drugs don’t impair driving. Can’t seem to see your cites on this, feel free to post them up, I’m sure lots of people would be interested to read them.

Regardless of whether people are impaired or not, the law says it is illegal to use/possess these recreational drugs* under any circumstances (let alone while operating a 2 tonne weapon of mass destruction) so I believe the police are well within their rights to charge people.

*I hate calling them recreational drugs as that makes them sound fun and harmless when they are not.

gazket 6:13 pm 12 Feb 15

since the governments tax alcohol so much it’s cheaper to buy drugs and get waisted than to buy a few alcoholic drinks out on the town .

Who are the cops busting young people smoking weed or rich n famous snorting coke ? I’d say the first option because it’s easy targets and young people don’t fight back with Barristers.

Narcobear 5:32 pm 12 Feb 15

@Mysteryman: it appears your comprehension of my viewpoint is lacking, or your bias is blinding you. You are also spreading misinformation.

The salivary drug screens return positive results for over 24 hours after ingestion of some of these substances.

My point is that 24hrs is well beyond the period of impairment/intoxication. Restriction of the right to drive of a person who is fully aware/in their senses/unimpaired a day after they have used a recreational drug because of a draconian law and an insensitive test is the unjust imposition on liberty to which I am referring.

I have no issue with a person being sanctioned for driving erratically or dangerously, but this should be the crime – not the fact that they have detectable trace metabolites in their system.

If you empirically test the driving ability of most of those convicted under these screening tests there will be no impairment and hence no justifiable cause to prevent them from using the roads. At least compared to the general driving standards of Canberran road users.

The law which states that such a person can’t drive is in the wrong and thus is an imposition on personal liberty without a redeeming benefit to public safety.

@Grimm: when you consent to restricting the driving rights of the prescription drug addled geriatrics/those on prescription antidepressants or sleeping tablets/the sleep deprived, equally along with the drunks and druggies I will concede to your public safety point of view. Why is impairment from fatigue or age related degeneration of ability viewed differently to impairment from certain chemicals? Objectively, the impact on road safety should be the primary benchmark in a fair society.

chewy14 5:19 pm 12 Feb 15

tooltime said :

Narcobear,

Lets look at the facts

163 / 45014 = about 1.5 positives per thousand, or 0.15%
82 / 508 = about 160 positives per thousand, or 16%!!! Scarey stuff…

Thats every 6th driver tested positive for illegal drugs. Coke, ice/ meth, LSD, heroine, THC. You & 16% may be happy to share the roads with these affected drivers, pretty sure the rest of us don’t. And the majority rule, don’t they? I do enjoy your passion though and you do express it in an intelligent manner…

What do you think the drink driving % would be if you had the results from the cops sitting outside your local pub/club on a Friday evening around 8-9pm?

The % means nothing when they are specifically targetting drivers, not testing everyone.

Mysteryman 2:16 pm 12 Feb 15

Narcobear said :

… The majority of users of these substances would be within the occasional/party crowd/or responsible weekend recreational group not the criminally bent serious addicts of heroin/crack etc that cause serious and ongoing harm to themselves and society.

With adequate education and self discipline users of ‘illict’ substances can show some personal responsibility and avoid driving while under the influence – yet still be persecuted under the law for detectable quantities in their systems.

Firstly, if these people were so responsible, they would have realised that driving on public roads requires them to do so without illicit drugs in their system.

Secondly, from what I’ve read, saliva testing can only detect traces of these drugs *up to* 4 hours later. So, 4 hours at most. I suspect that’s the extreme end of the detection, with most of it falling within only a few hours – still more than enough time for these “responsible users” to be driving around impaired.

Narcobear said :

Random drug test screening is without a doubt unfair and an invasion of personal liberty. More visible road policing capable of catching dangerous drivers in the act is definitely a more honest approach to the situation but the resource cost:revenue raised ratio just doesn’t weigh up for those in charge.

“Unfair?”. No, it’s not. It’s the same as having your registration checked, or you licence checked, or your breath tested. I’m not sure where you get your idea of “personal liberty” from. You don’t have the right to drive impaired or to refuse to be tested by the police. You do as the law requires you, or you don’t use the roads. It’s pretty simple.

Narcobear said :

“majority rule, don’t they?” Majority rule also treated women and indigenous Australians as inferior subjects of the empire, majority rule also gave us Sir Tone with his current approval rating in the 30% range. Majority rule can prove to be ineffective and counter to the best interests of the nation.

Congratulations! That’s a ridiculously long bow you’ve drawn.

Grimm 12:52 pm 12 Feb 15

Yeah, of course, we should allow drug addled losers to drive around. They are way better than people who have been drinking! Now, let me get back to my bong…

Narcobear 10:42 am 12 Feb 15

Random drug screening is a waste of effort and inherently unjust, the falsities in your position tooltime are outlined below;

“82 / 508 = about 160 positives per thousand, or 16%!!! Scarey stuff…”
SELECTION BIAS is the reason this percentage is so high. If police conducted salivary drug test screening on ALL drivers passing through their check points then they would have 82 positive drug tests / 45014 so less than 0.02%. In other words 16% of drivers who were TARGETED by police test positive, the converse is that 84% of those profiled were wrongly under suspicion. They were profiled for driving suspiciously/dangerously/having a dodgy vehicle/suspicious haircuts/dress sense – these should be the offences targeted instead of scapegoating drug use as the source of all evil.

“Thats every 6th driver tested positive for illegal drugs. Coke, ice/ meth, LSD, heroine, THC” – WRONG The salivary drug tests only screen for THC and amphetamines (including MDMA). These tend to be drugs of occasional/recreational use rather than addiction (caveat – crystal methamphetamine). The majority of users of these substances would be within the occasional/party crowd/or responsible weekend recreational group not the criminally bent serious addicts of heroin/crack etc that cause serious and ongoing harm to themselves and society.

With adequate education and self discipline users of ‘illict’ substances can show some personal responsibility and avoid driving while under the influence – yet still be persecuted under the law for detectable quantities in their systems.

coke/heroin/LSD/other psychadelics and the whole gamut of newer synthetic drugs can’t be detected by salivary screening tests and are regulated under the more reasonable “driving under the influence” provisions. Before 2010 Police could stop and test you if they had a reasonable suspicion that you were driving under the influence – this was fair. Now with the random drug screening they have simply increased the change of catching responsible users of recreational drugs (even when they are no longer impaired/under the influence but still test positive for the drug/its metabolites in their system) without impacting those who irresponsibly drive under the influence. I hope I have clearly elucidated this issue for you.

Random drug test screening is without a doubt unfair and an invasion of personal liberty. More visible road policing capable of catching dangerous drivers in the act is definitely a more honest approach to the situation but the resource cost:revenue raised ratio just doesn’t weigh up for those in charge.

“share the road with these affected drivers” – I reiterate that not all these drivers are impaired by drugs at the time of testing. Prosecution based on crude and rudimentary screening does not confirm they were impaired at the time of testing positive, they had detectable levels in their system.

“majority rule, don’t they?” Majority rule also treated women and indigenous Australians as inferior subjects of the empire, majority rule also gave us Sir Tone with his current approval rating in the 30% range. Majority rule can prove to be ineffective and counter to the best interests of the nation.

Progress begins in the minds of the few who are prepared to assess the world with a rational rather than dogmatic approach (flat earth theory anyone). Please for the sake of the children, reconsider these draconian and regressive attitudes towards this handful of potentially beneficial pharmacological substances.

Narcobear

tooltime 11:11 pm 11 Feb 15

Narcobear,

Lets look at the facts

163 / 45014 = about 1.5 positives per thousand, or 0.15%
82 / 508 = about 160 positives per thousand, or 16%!!! Scarey stuff…

Thats every 6th driver tested positive for illegal drugs. Coke, ice/ meth, LSD, heroine, THC. You & 16% may be happy to share the roads with these affected drivers, pretty sure the rest of us don’t. And the majority rule, don’t they? I do enjoy your passion though and you do express it in an intelligent manner…

Narcobear 4:03 pm 11 Feb 15

tooltime, lets look at the facts behind the maths

508 roadside drug tests were performed on people whom the police PROFILED (unfairly prejudged) and decided to test for the presence of illegal substances in their system.

NO clear scientific consensus supports a correlation between blood cannabinoid/sympathetomimetic drug metabolite/opioid metabolite levels and driving impairment. The threshold for Intoxication under the influence of these substances can occur at a wide range of detectable concentrations – entirely dependant on the metabolism/tolerance/susceptibility of the person involved.

A casual stoner, or a weekend pill popper will likely have better reaction times and judgment than a demented 80yr old, or a tired shift worker who is “legally” allowed to wreck havoc on our roads. But the drug user is unjustly persecuted while safely commuting on our streets.

This blanket, non evidence based prohibitionist stance unfairly discriminates against those who responsibly use recreational drugs. This is not an oxymoronic statement – one can be under the influence yet maintain executive decision making capacity.

Perhaps some factually based education regarding the positive AND negative effects, duration of such effects and methods to limit harm and risk to oneself and the public at large could enlighten our policing of these matters?

Or we could swallow the bu>>$hit our US overlords have imposed upon the world and continue with the mindless “war on drugs” that has failed to curb the popularity of drug use among the populace and has only served to INCREASE the risks and harm associated with their negative aspects.

OPEN YOUR MINDS!

tooltime 10:10 am 11 Feb 15

ExarKun,

Lets do the math.

163 / 45014 = about 1.5 positives per thousand, or 0.15%
82 / 508 = about 160 positives per thousand, or 16%!!! Scarey stuff…

We can all probably name or suspect at least one workplace drunk. Extrapolate that out by 100, and if that number doesn’t alarm you, I don’t know what will.

The drug problem is a huge one in society. I was tested by my employers in the US and Canada about 6 times over 18 months. Can you imagine if they started doing that here? The water cooler conversations would go like this:

“What happened to pretty young Maddy/ old Kevin from Accounts? Haven’t seen ’em for ages..”

“Too many pills one weekend/ had a big choof one night apparently. Sacked on the spot – escorted out of the building. You didn’t hear about that?”

The interesting part of the article is that the AFP are targetting speeding next month? Why wouldn’t you just keep going after the drug drivers – there’s your revenue source right there…

Narcobear 9:13 am 10 Feb 15

Hear hear @Openyourmind. Perhaps a more evidence based and non dogmatic view is required.

It is well known that prescribed anti-seizure, pain killer, sleeping tablets (benzodiazepines, zolpidem) and psychotropic (antpsychotic/antidepresent) medications can be powerful impediments of driving capacity. How often does your doctor warn you to avoid driving when you change or start a new medication from this list, at least until its effects on that person are clearly understood? These are generally substances that are designed to depress cerebral function!

Fatigue behind the wheel is a far more common, dangerous and greater impairment than even moderate drink driving. The Canadian OHS ombudsman (WorkSafeBC) reports the following:
“17 hours awake is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.05
21 hours awake is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.08 (legal limit in Canada)
24-25 hours awake is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of .10”

Tell honestly, me how many near misses you have heard about or even experienced yourselves due to fatigue? But you can’t police this one, you can’t target fatigued drivers for revenue easily.

On a different note, anecdotally – cannabis intoxicated drivers are
a) 40% less likely to tailgate. Given that rear-end accidents make up a large proportion of insurance accident claims we could easily reduce this toll by reccomending aggressive drivers premedicate with cannabis before getting behind the wheel.

b) Unlikely to display aggressive behaviour – Road rage would almost disappear overnight!

c) 66% less likely to exceed the speed limit. And we all know speed kills…

Unless its amphetamines, which were provided to fighter jet pilots and front line troops in the past to improve their reaction time and reflexes. I think some older drivers could benefit from a gentle tune up to their reaction times and awareness by dosing up on sympathomimetic drugs before heading off to the bowls club!

Surely its time for an educated, scientific, non biased look at encouraging drug driving!

But in all seriousness – Its not drugs that kill, its stupid behaviour – which is exhibited in generous proportions by even tee-totalling law abiders.

Food for thought?

Narcobear

OpenYourMind 6:28 am 10 Feb 15

It would be interesting to know what drugs were being detected. Maybe it’s mostly just people who’ve used marijuana recently and aren’t impaired at all.

I remember a study a while back where the results indicated that drivers under the influence of marijuana were less likely to have an accident and the accident would be less serious than drivers who were not under the influence of any drug. And right up near the top of the worst drugs for driver impairment were legal prescription drugs – especially sleeping and depression drugs.

I’m not advocating drug driving of any kind, I just wonder if we are targeting the right area and/or making guilty those who’ve used a drug a long time before driving.

Postalgeek 10:59 pm 09 Feb 15

ExarKun said :

82 positives from 508 tests is a horrendous strike rate!

+1

Need a Speed camera that snaps drivers’ dilated pupils.

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