RACQ study reveals high drug use among young drivers

Almost one in six young motorists admit to driving while under the influence of illicit drugs, according to RACQ’s latest Annual Road Safety Survey.
Driver overtaking truck on highway.

Head of Public Policy Dr Michael Kane said the 2023 Annual Road Safety Survey was the first time the Club had asked Queensland drivers about their drug use, and the results revealed how big an issue it is.

“These results are extremely concerning and have exposed the prevalence of drug driving, particularly among our youngest and most inexperienced drivers,” Dr Kane said.

“Considering every fifth fatality (20.5%) on Queensland roads in 2022 involved a drug driver, we need these motorists to wake up to themselves and not put their life, or the lives of others at risk. No driver can say they didn’t know it was illegal to drink or drug drive.

“Between 2018 and 2022, 280 people died in road crashes involving a drink driver and 267 died in crashes involving a drug driver*. Drug driving fatalities are on the rise and are now just as big of an issue as drink driving.

“Our study also showed ‘drink driving or drugs’ was the second most important motoring topic for 18 to 24-year-olds, which highlights the relevance of this issue.”

As drivers aged, the prevalence of drug driving dropped but was still shockingly high with 8% of 25 to 34-year-olds and 5% of 35 to 44-year-olds admitting to the dangerous and illegal behaviour.

RACQ supports the State Government’s commitment to develop a package of drug driving reforms as part of its Queensland Road Safety Action Plan 2022-2024 and is calling for mandatory saliva tests after a crash.

“We believe the Queensland Government should investigate the possible introduction of compulsory roadside illicit drug saliva testing following crashes. This would improve data on the issue and increase the chance of drug drivers being caught.”

Dr Kane said it’s not just driving under the influence of illicit drugs that can be dangerous with 8% of Queenslanders saying they’ve taken either prescription or non-prescription drugs before getting behind the wheel.

“Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs can affect your vision, mood, decision-making skills, muscles, and coordination and therefore impair your ability to drive,” he said.

“We urge people to stop driving and speak to their doctor if they notice their medication is impairing their driving and ask their doctor or pharmacist about the possible effects of any new medications.”

RACQ will continue to work with its members and the State Government to address the dangerous issue of drug driving.

Percentage of Queensland drivers who admitted to driving under the influence of drugs^:


Motoring topics that are important to Queensland Drivers^:

*Source: TMR QLD Road Crash Weekly Report

^Source: RACQ’s Annual Road Safety Survey 2023

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