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Drug driving is overtaking drink driving in Australia

By Alex Rae, 29 Aug 2019 News

Drug driving is overtaking drink driving in Australia

An alarmingly high rate of drivers are getting behind the wheel after taking drugs

If you drink and drive, you’re a bloody idiot. But if you take meth and drive, what does that make you? Well, it might make you about 40 times more likely to have a car crash. And there’s potentially almost as many people doing that as drink driving.

This information comes in as Victoria’s road toll continues to grow higher than the same time last year, Victoria Police revealing that drug driving offences are almost on parity with drink driving charges in the Southern State.

Read: New Volvo tech will stop you from drink driving

Triple J’s Hack reports that statistics supplied by Vicpol show the number of people charged with driving on drugs is nearly equal with those caught drink driving.

In 2018, 4634 people in Victoria were charged with drug driving, while 5164 were charged with drink driving. The numbers represent that drug driving charges account for 47 percent of all driving under the influence charges. But it gets worse.

The shocking statistic highlights a growing problem that is particularly prevalent among young drivers, with 29 percent of all drug driving charges committed by drivers between the ages of 18 to 25 years old.

Read next: Drug driving tests face legal challenge in NSW

Statistics supplied by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) Victoria show that police tested 140,956 drivers for drugs in the 12 months to March 2019, an increase of 37 percent on the same period the year before. By comparison, police booze bus tested an incredible 1.35 million drivers for drink driving, making the hit rate for drug testing alarmingly high.

Roadside drug testing involves a swab test that is analysed on the spot in three minutes and can detect the presence of THC (Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol), the active component in cannabis; methamphetamine, which is found in drugs such as ’speed’, ’base’, ‘ice’, and ‘crystal meth,’ and; MDMA, which is known as ecstasy.

Testing positive to the swab test results in a sample being sent to a laboratory for further analysis and confirmation, which forms the basis of charges brought against the driver.

Speaking to Hack, Road Policing Command Assistant Commissioner Stephen Leane said that drivers with meth in their system are up to 200 times more likely to crash.

Read next: Drug and alcohol detectors coming to Australian cars

“If you've got methylamphetamine in your system, you're 18 to 200 times more likely to have a collision.

"When you think about drinking and driving, if you're over 0.5 [blood alcohol content] but under 1.0, you're five to seven times more likely to be in a collision," said Leane.

"Just don't get on the road after you've taken these substances."

Problem is, Leane sees drug driving to become endemic.

“I think drugs and driving will be the big challenge for our community for the next decade.

"Just like we did with alcohol and driving in the 1970s, if we don't get on top of this then too many people will lose their lives from this on the roads.

"Don't drive to the festival, or don't drive home from the dance party. Because if you've taken drugs that night, there's more than likely going to be a presence in your system and that means you could have a collision and kill somebody. The police may catch you and you could lose your license.”