Research suggests that those who use drugs and drive have a similar crash risk to drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of between 0.1 and 0.15 (CARRS-Q 2008, p1).
Since December 2007 Queensland Police have been able to undertake random roadside saliva testing for illegal drugs (Queensland Transport 2009, p1).
The saliva samples are tested for the presence of THC (the active ingredient in cannabis), Methylamphetamine (‘speed’ or ‘ice’) and MDMA (the active ingredient in ‘ecstasy’) (Queensland Transport 2009, p1). These are believed to be the drugs most commonly identified in the bodies of drivers and riders involved in fatal crashes (Queensland Transport 2008, p14).
The introduction of roadside drug testing in Queensland and other jurisdictions has been an important development in road safety, especially considering drug driving is believed to be an increasing problem and with one 10-year evaluation of Australian road crashes estimating that one quarter of the drivers killed in road crashes tested positive to drugs other than alcohol (CARRS-Q 2008, p1).
While there has been progress made with regard to enforcement against drug driving with the 2007 introduction of random roadside drug testing for some illicit drugs, the RACQ believes that the testing program needs to be expanded so that drivers can be tested more frequently.
RACQ also believes that more work still needs to be done to educate drivers about the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs – especially legal over-the-counter/prescription medication – and that a means for testing for the presence of these types of drugs (that can affect driving ability) needs to be investigated, because both legal and illegal drugs have the potential to increase the risk of a crash or alter a driver’s behaviour (Queensland Transport 2006, p9).
Collection and recording of offence and crash data in relation to drug use also needs to be of a high standard, to help paint a clearer picture as to the prevalence of drug driving in Queensland.
This RACQ TV episode explores the dangers of 'drug driving'. And it isn't just illicit drugs we need to be concerned about, taking prescription medication and getting behind the wheel is also of huge concern.
CARRS-Q 2008, State of the Road: Drug Driving Fact Sheet, CARRS-Q, Queensland University of Technology, Carseldine, Queensland, Australia.
Queensland Transport 2009, Drug Driving Fact Sheet, Queensland Government, Web Document, Accessed 30/01/09: Drug Driving Fact Sheet 2009
Queensland Transport 2006, Queensland Road Safety Action Plan 2006-2007: safe4life, Queensland Government, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
Queensland Transport 2008, Queensland Road Safety Action Plan 2008-2009: safe4life, Queensland Government, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.