«Random Drug Driving Tests under the Transport Legislation and Another Act Amendment Bill 2006 (Qld) For several decades, road safety campaigns have ...»
Queensland Parliamentary Library
Random Drug Driving Tests
under the Transport
Legislation and Another Act
Amendment Bill 2006 (Qld)
For several decades, road safety campaigns have focussed on the
dangers of drink driving. While driving under the influence of
alcohol would appear to pose a huge risk to road safety,
disturbing findings are emerging about driving while under the
influence of drugs – particularly illicit drugs. The Transport
Legislation and Another Act Amendment Bill 2006 (Qld) seeks to provide police officers with the power to conduct random roadside drug testing to detect the presence of certain illicit drugs in the bodily fluids of drivers. The testing process will operate in a similar way to current random roadside breath testing for blood alcohol concentration.
Nicolee Dixon Research Brief No 2007/04 Queensland Parliamentary Library Research Publications and Resources Section Ms Karen Sampford, Director (07) 3406 7116 Mrs Nicolee Dixon, Senior Parliamentary Research Officer (07) 3406 7409 Mrs Renee Gastaldon, Parliamentary Research Officer (07) 3406 7241 Research Publications are compiled for Members of the Queensland Parliament, for use in parliamentary debates and for related parliamentary purposes. Information in publications is current to the date of publication. Information on legislation, case law or legal policy issues does not constitute legal advice.
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2.1 DRUGS THAT CAN AFFECT DRIVING
2.1.1 Illicit Drugs
2.1.2 Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications
2.2 HOW DRIVING CAN BE AFFECTED BY DRUGS
2.2.1 Methods Used to Investigate the Effect of Drugs on Driving...............6
2.3 GROUPS AT MOST RISK
2.3.1 Commercial Drivers
2.3.2 Drivers on Medication
2.3.3 Young Drivers
2.3.4 Elderly Drivers
3 NATURE AND EXTENT OF DRUG DRIVING
4 DRUG DRIVER TESTING METHODS
4.1 BEHAVIOURAL TESTING
4.2 CHEMICAL SCREENING
5 RANDOM ROADSIDE DRUG TESTING
6 RANDOM DRUG TESTING LAWS IN OTHER JURISDICTIONS.......13
6.2 NEW SOUTH WALES
6.3 SOUTH AUSTRALIA
6.5 WESTERN AUSTRALIA
7.1 PARLIAMENTARY TRAVELSAFE COMMITTEE REPORT
7.2 DRUG TEST TRIAL
7.3 TRANSPORT LEGISLATION AND ANOTHER ACT AMENDMENT BILL 2006.... 23 RECENT QPL RESEARCH PUBLICATIONS 2007
Transport Legislation and Another Act Amendment Bill 2006 (Qld)
EXECUTIVE SUMMARYSimilarly to drink driving, driving under the influence of drugs is against the law in all Australian jurisdictions, regardless of whether the drugs are legal or illegal.
However, until the last few years, the ability of police officers to test for drug driving has been premised upon the officer first forming a reasonable suspicion or belief that a driver may be impaired by a drug. Unlike the case with drink driving, it has been only recently that reliable technology which is convenient to use has been developed to enable random roadside drug testing without there needing to be prior evidence of impairment. Testing for drugs other than alcohol requires the provision of a bodily fluid, such as saliva, or blood specimens. Accordingly, legislation to permit random drug testing is a quite recent phenomenon: page 1.
The link between the presence of drugs in the body and the risk of collision is
difficult to establish and is undergoing considerable research at the present time:
pages 1-2. However, a number of drugs have been identified by authorities as posing potential risks to road safety and these can be grouped under the headings of ‘illicit drugs’ (e.g. cocaine, ecstasy, speed, cannabis, LSD, and heroin) and ‘prescription and over-the-counter medications’: pages 2-5. The various tests and studies used to establish the connection between drug impairment and crash risk are described on pages 5-6. The groups that have been identified as most at risk of their driving being impaired by drugs are commercial drivers (e.g. long haul
truck drivers), drivers on medication, as well as young and elderly drivers:
The nature and extent of drug driving, as identified by various Australian studies and surveys, such as AAMI Insurance’s Young Drivers Road Safety Index, reveals some alarming results about driver attitudes to drug driving: pages 8-9.
The various problems with establishing a link between drug impairment and crash risk and the development of suitable technology for reliable roadside drug testing has meant that testing drivers for drug driving has relied on police officers applying behavioural tests to establish impairment. However, advances in technology have meant that chemical screening has become a viable option: pages 9-11.
Random roadside drug testing legislation has come into effect in Victoria (which had the world’s first random drug testing laws), New South Wales, South Australia
and Tasmania. This will soon be followed by Western Australia and Queensland:
In Queensland, the current relevant legislation relating to drug driving is the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995 (Qld) (TORUM) ss 79, 79A and 80 of which create offences, outline police powers and provide for related matters. If a police officer reasonably suspects that a motorist’s driving ability has been impaired by drugs or alcohol because of external signs exhibited by the person, the officer may require the motorist to undergo a breath test or, in certain cases, a blood test: pages 21-28.
Following the Drug Driving in Queensland Report, tabled by the Queensland Parliamentary Travelsafe Committee in November 1999, and trials around the State Queensland Parliamentary Library (pages 25-28), the Queensland Government introduced the Transport Legislation and Another Act Amendment Bill 2006 (Qld) into Parliament on 29 November
2006. It proposes to amend TORUM and the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 (Qld) to give legislative support to the conduct of random roadside drug testing in Queensland: pages 28-33. The testing and screening process will be similar to that in other Australian jurisdictions.
Transport Legislation and Another Act Amendment Bill 2006 (Qld) Page 1
For several decades, road safety campaigns have focussed on the dangers of drink driving. While driving under the influence of alcohol would appear to pose a huge risk to road safety, disturbing findings are emerging about driving while under the influence of drugs – particularly illicit drugs. The Transport Legislation and Another Act Amendment Bill 2006 (Qld) seeks to provide police officers with the power to conduct random roadside drug testing to detect the presence of certain illicit drugs in the bodily fluids of drivers. The testing process will operate in a similar way to current random roadside breath testing for alcohol concentration.
While prescription medications and over-the-counter medicines may also impair driving, the proposed laws will allow screening only for illicit drugs.
It has not been until relatively recently that some jurisdictions have passed laws to provide a legislative basis for random testing of drivers for drugs other than alcohol. Random Breath Testing (RBT) for alcohol is relatively simple, has been in place for many years, and has general community acceptance.
Similarly to drink driving, driving under the influence of drugs is against the law in all Australian jurisdictions, regardless of whether the drugs are legal or illegal.
However, until the last few years, the ability of police officers to test for drug driving has been premised upon the officer first forming a reasonable belief or suspicion that a driver may be under the influence of a drug. 1 Reliable and convenient technology for use in random roadside drug testing – which requires drivers to provide a saliva sample – has been difficult to develop but is finally being unveiled across the nation. It is envisaged that roadside tests of saliva samples using the new technology will allow drivers to be pulled over at random without there needing to be prior evidence of impairment. Accordingly, legislation to permit random roadside testing for the presence of drugs is beginning to emerge in many Australian states and territories.
At the outset, it should be noted that research is continuing about the relationship between some drugs (such as cannabis) and driver impairment. The mere fact that a drug is detected in a person’s bloodstream or bodily fluids does not necessarily
mean that the person’s driving was impaired by the drug. Unlike blood alcohol content, where the connection to the risk of having a collision is well known, the link between the presence of drugs in the body and the risk of collision is more difficult to establish. Thus, it could be argued that the detection of a drug in a person’s bodily fluids does not necessarily mean that the person was not fit to drive. 2 While alcohol might be the most common substance found in the systems of drivers involved in collisions (between 23% and 40%), 3 some studies indicate that driving after taking certain drugs does pose some concern for road safety. A 2003 study undertaken by researchers at the Department of Forensic Medicine at Monash University considered the incidence of alcohol and drugs in 3,398 fatally injured drivers in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia from 1990 to
1999. Drugs (other than alcohol) were present in 26.7% of cases and psychotropic drugs in 23.5% of cases (comprising cannabis (13.5%), opioids (4.9%), stimulants (4.1%), benzodiazepines (4.1%) and other psychotropic drugs (2.7%)). The prevalence of drugs, particularly cannabis and opioids, in fatally injured drivers increased over the decade. Stimulants had a larger presence in truck drivers (23%). 4 In order to fully appreciate the issue of drug driving, it is worthwhile to outline what drugs can affect driving, how driving can be affected, and the main ‘at-risk’ driver groups.
2.1 DRUGS THAT CAN AFFECT DRIVING The main types of drugs that can cause problems for safe driving are set out under the headings below. 5 The drugs considered have been identified by the Queensland Department of Transport (Queensland Transport) as being the main ones of concern due to their potential to impair driving and cause collisions.
2 Australian Academy of Science, ‘The dope on drug impaired driving’, Science in the News, http://www.science.org.au/nova/085/085print.htm.
3 See Travelsafe Committee, Drug Driving in Queensland Report No 29, p 8.
4 OH Drummer, et al., ‘The incidence of drugs in drivers killed in Australian road traffic crashes’, Forensic Science International, 134(2-3), July 2003, pp 154-162 (Abstract).
5 Queensland Transport, Drug Driving Fact Sheet, http://www.roadsafety.qld.gov.au/qt/LTASinfo.nsf/index/rs_drugdriving_drugaffectsskills; and AAMI Insurance, ‘Prescription for disaster – drivers ignore drug warnings’, Media Release, 5 December 2006.
Transport Legislation and Another Act Amendment Bill 2006 (Qld) Page 3 2.1.1 Illicit Drugs These drugs include cocaine, ecstasy, speed, cannabis, LSD, and heroin.