Dr Caitlin: The Laws On Drug Driving

Posted by

.

Dr Caitlin O’Connor of Tralee Medical Centre in St Brendan’s Park on drug driving laws…

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) launched its fifth in a series of anti-drug driving awareness campaigns in association with An Garda Síochána in April.

The campaign was introduced in co-operation with the Medical Bureau for Road Safety in UCD and is supported by the departments of Transport, Tourism and Sport.The focus of the campaign is to raise awareness of Preliminary Drug Testing, which has been introduced by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, the 2016 Road Traffic Act.

Continued below…

.

Driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) has been a statutory offence in Ireland since the introduction of the Road Traffic Act 1961.

The legal definition states that a person must not be impaired (though alcohol, drugs or any combination of both) while in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle.

Since 13th April 2017, An Garda Síochána have the power to test the oral fluid of drivers for the presence of Cannabis, Cocaine, Opiates (e.g. Morphine) and Benzodiazepines (e.g. Valium) at the roadside or in a Garda station.

In Ireland, there is a twin-track approach to drug driving:  Firstly, it is against the law to drive under the influence of drugs (including prescribed drugs) where your driving is impaired to such an extent that you don’t have proper control of the vehicle.

Secondly, it is against the law to drive under the influence of certain drugs (regardless of driving performance) above specified levels.

Driving under the influence of drugs is a problem in Ireland. A study from the Coroners District in Kildare during 1998 and 2009 found that almost one in ten drivers killed had a positive toxicology for a drug or drugs.

Furthermore, the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS) found that out of the 9,734 specimens of blood and urine tested for the presence of a drug or drugs between the years 2009-2015, 6,232 or 64%, tested positive.

Drivers with medical conditions should continue to take their prescribed medications in accordance with healthcare advice and medical fitness-to-drive guidelines. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist about any concerns.

Example scenarios which can arise during road traffic law enforcement for driving under the influence of drugs.

Scenario 1

Driver is randomly stopped at a mandatory intoxicant checkpoint by Gardaí and asked to provide a specimen of oral fluid which is tested for drugs.  The oral fluid test is positive for benzodiazepines.

The driver explains that he is legitimately prescribed benzodiazepines for a medical condition by his Doctor.

The Garda assesses whether the driver is impaired. Garda is satisfied that the driver is not impaired and there is no further action. Driver continues on his journey.

Scenario 2

Occasional cannabis smoker has smoked a few joints on Saturday night finishing at 3am. Wakes up Sunday at 8am and decides to use his car.

On the journey he is stopped at a Garda mandatory intoxicant checkpoint and his oral fluid is tested.  Oral fluid is positive for cannabis.  The Garda has no evidence of impairment.

Driver arrested and a blood specimen is taken within 3 hours.  Blood specimen sent to the Medical Bureau of Road Safety for testing. Cannabis is confirmed by the detection of  9 -tetrahydrocannabinol at a concentration of 2ng/ml (limit is 1ng/ml).

A statutory certificate is issued to the driver and the Garda.  Driver is prosecuted and, if convicted, will be disqualified from driving for 1 year. Fine and prison sentence is also possible.

Scenario 3

Driver is spotted by Garda weaving from one side of the road to the other. His lights are not on, even though it is midnight on a poorly lit public road.

The Garda stops the driver and there are obvious signs of impairment such as slurred speech and unstable gait.

The Garda has formed the opinion that the driver is impaired.  Driver arrested and a urine specimen is taken within 3 hours.

Urine specimen is sent to the Medical Bureau of Road Safety for testing.  The presence of the benzodiazepine alprazolam and its metabolite alpha-hydroxyalprazolam are confirmed in the urine.

A certificate stating that the presence of a ‘benzodiazepine class’ drug has been detected is issued by the MBRS to the driver and the Garda.  Driver is prosecuted and in court presents valid prescription for the drug alprazolam.

The Garda’s impairment evidence is accepted by the court and the driver is convicted.  The penalty is disqualification from driving for 4 years. Fine and prison sentence are also possible.

Scenario 4

Young man on a weekend away, in a country where cannabis is legally available, smokes cannabis while there.

Finishes smoking cannabis on Saturday night at 11pm. Flies back on a flight landing in Dublin at 8pm on Sunday. Drives home and is stopped at a mandatory intoxicant checkpoint.

Oral fluid is tested for cannabis and other drugs.  Oral fluid negative for cannabis due to the time since last smoking cannabis.  No further action and driver continues home.

Scenario 5

A driver, who is legally prescribed medicinal cannabinoids, is stopped at a mandatory intoxicant checkpoint.

Oral fluid is tested for cannabis and other drugs. Oral fluid positive for cannabis.  Driver confirms they are legally prescribed a medicinal cannabis product and produces a statutory medical exemption certificate for medicinal cannabis.

The Garda does not form the opinion that the driver is impaired and the driver continues on their journey.

Scenario 6

Driver is observed driving erratically on a motorway. The Gardaí pull the car over and find that the driver is obviously impaired.

Oral fluid is tested for cannabis and other drugs. Oral fluid positive for cannabis.  Driver confirms they are legally prescribed a medicinal cannabis product and produces a statutory medical exemption certificate for medicinal cannabis.

The Garda forms the opinion that the driver is impaired and the driver is arrested.  A blood specimen is taken within 3 hours.

Blood specimen sent to the Medical Bureau of Road Safety for testing. Cannabis is confirmed by the detection of  9 -tetrahydrocannabinol at a concentration of 10ng/ml (limit is 1ng/ml).

A statutory certificate is issued to the driver and the Garda.  Driver is prosecuted and, if convicted, will be disqualified from driving for 4 years. Fine and prison sentence is also possible.

Comments are closed.

image