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Drug driving rates in Ireland remain high

Figures revealed by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) show that drug driving is a major problem on Ireland’s roads.

They show that 68 per cent of drivers with a positive roadside drug test, between April 2017 and July 2019, had a positive test for cannabis. Cocaine follows closely behind as the main illicit drug detected after cannabis, with 37 per cent of samples tested being positive for cocaine. The Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS) findings also demonstrate that cannabis is now not far behind alcohol in blood and urine samples it examined.

The figures were announced at the RSA’s Annual Academic Road Safety Lecture, which marked the start of this week’s ‘Irish Road Safety Week’, focused on drug driving and featured insights on the subject from international and national experts.

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross said: “Driving under the influence of drugs has been a statutory offence since 1961 but it wasn’t until 2017, with the introduction of Preliminary Drug Testing, that we had a drug testing device capable of testing for the presence of drugs in drivers at the roadside and in the Garda station. It’s clear that its introduction has resulted in an increase in drug driving detections, but the results presented today show that a continued enforcement and education effort is required to tackle this killer behaviour.”

Assistant Commissioner, David Sheahan of the Roads Policing division of An Garda Síochána warned that the drivers need to “realise that the days of avoiding detection for drug driving are over and that we are determined to stamp out this killer behaviour”.

The RSA Academic Lecture also unveiled preliminary results from a collaboration between the RSA, Health Research Board (HRB) and MBRS, looking at the presence of drugs amongst road user fatalities. Analyses of the toxicology results of 310 driver and motorcyclists killed during 2013-2016 demonstrated that:

  • 11 per cent had a positive toxicology for at least one benzodiazepine
  • Eight per cent had a positive toxicology for cocaine
  • Seven per cent had a positive toxicology for cannabis