Drug driving is a serious problem in NSW, contributing to around the same number of fatalities as drink driving.
NSW Police are supporting a new drug driving campaign launched today by Transport for NSW which has a simple message for drivers – if you take drugs and drive, you will get caught.
Mobile Drug Testing (MDT) operates alongside RBT for alcohol and police also have the power to test drivers they believe may be under the influence of illegal or prescription drugs. MDT is increasing and by 2017, there will be three times the number of tests on NSW roads.
MDT detects drivers who have recently used three common illegal drugs: ecstasy, cannabis and speed (including ice). MDT can be conducted at roadside operations along with RBT, or by NSW Police in vehicles patrolling our roads.
As with RBT, you will be stopped by police, asked for your licence, and complete a breath test for alcohol. You will then be asked to wipe an MDT test stick down your tongue to check if you have illegal drugs in your system. The results take a few minutes to appear and you must wait until police say you are in the clear. Most drivers test negative and are soon on the road again.
If your MDT test is positive, you’ll be taken to a roadside testing van or bus, or back to a police station to provide a saliva sample. This sample will also be tested and if positive, you’ll be banned from driving for 24 hours. All samples are sent to a laboratory for analysis. If the laboratory confirms the positive roadside result, police will contact you and charge you with driving with the presence of an illegal drug.
If you are stopped for MDT or other reasons at the roadside, your behaviour or driving is erratic and police suspect you are under the influence of illegal or prescription drugs, they can also require you to undergo blood and urine testing. The tests cover a large range of legal and illegal substances that can impair drivers and can lead to a charge of driving under the influence (DUI), which has serious penalties.
All drivers involved in fatal crashes undergo blood and urine testing for drugs and alcohol.
Drivers caught with drugs in their system will face court, could lose their licence, be fined and end up with a criminal record. For a presence offence detected through an MDT, the court may impose a fine of up to $1,100 and an automatic six month licence disqualification.
Drivers proven to be driving under the influence of illegal or prescription drugs, face fines of up to $2,200 and automatic 12 month licence disqualification for a first offence. These offenders can also be sentenced to up to nine months in prison. Higher penalties apply for second and subsequent offenders.
Don't make a foolish decision
Illegal drugs can be detected in your saliva by an MDT for a significant time after drug use, even if you feel you are OK to drive. The length of time that illegal drugs can be detected by MDT can depend on the amount taken and other factors that vary between individuals. Cannabis can be detected in saliva for up to 12 hours after use. Stimulants (speed, ice and pills) can be detected for one to two days.
If you think that you may have illegal drugs in your system, the best decision is not to drive. Our Getting home safely tips have advice on how to avoid the risk of driving if you have used drugs.
Protecting the community
About 10 per cent of MDTs this year have come back positive, compared with less than 1 per cent of RBTs for alcohol. Taking illegal drugs before driving puts you at greater risk of injuring or killing yourself, your friends or other innocent people. NSW Police are doing their job to keep you, your family and everyone else on our roads safe by carrying out MDT operations.