The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport in Ireland, Shane Ross, has announced the commencement of the drug driving provisions in the Road Traffic Act 2016.

One of the key measures in the legislation provides for Preliminary Drug Testing, which will enable Gardaí to test motorists whom they suspect of driving under the influence of drugs at the roadside.

The new Garda powers mean Gardaí can establish roadside checkpoints, Mandatory Intoxicant Checkpoints (MIT), to test drivers for the presence of both alcohol and drugs. New drug testing devices (Dräger DrugTest 5000) involve testing a sample of a driver’s oral fluid (saliva) for the presence of cannabis, cocaine, opiates (e.g. heroin, morphine) and benzodiazepines (e.g. valium). The new devices will also be available in Garda stations.

Speaking at the launch Shane Ross said the introduction of Preliminary Drug Testing is an important step in tackling drug driving.

“Driving under the influence of drugs has been an offence in Ireland since 1961,” he said. “The law states that a person must not be impaired (through alcohol, drugs or any combination of both) while driving or in charge of a vehicle. However, driving under the influence of drugs remains a problem in Ireland. It is estimated that drug driving is a factor in approximately one in ten fatal crashes. Drug driving not only puts the driver at risk but also passengers and others who share the road. The introduction of Preliminary Drug Testing now strengthens the ability of the Gardaí to tackle the problem. This is just one step in a multi-faceted approach my Department and I are taking to tackle the recent increase in road fatalities.”

Assistant Commissioner Michael Finn, Roads Policing and Major Event /Emergency Management, stated that: “The new roadside test for drugs will enable An Garda Síochána to tackle the serious issue of drug driving. There will be 86 drug screening devices located in Garda stations nationally and 50 more available for use at the roadside. Over time up to 150 devices will be available for use at the roadside. While the test will take longer to conduct than the roadside test for alcohol, the test is easy to carry out and within minutes will tell if a driver has drugs in their system. This new screening device is an important tool for An Garda Síochána in the identification of drug drivers, ensuring our roads are safer for everyone to use.”

The new measures were launched in Dublin, in conjunction with An Garda Síochána, the Medical Bureau for Road Safety (MBRS) and the Road Safety Authority (RSA).

View a video from the RSA’s Preliminary Drug Testing awareness campaign: