Survey: Eight out of 10 motorists 'very supportive' of roadside drug testing

A survey has found that 97% of motorists would support new roadside drug testing measures.

Almost 80% of more than 3,000 motorists surveyed by AA Ireland said they were "very supportive" of the new measures, with an additional 12.38% "somewhat supportive".

Earlier this month Gardaí started to use the new technology to identify motorists driving under the influence of cocaine, marijuana, opiates and benzodiazepines such as Valium.

The poll found that support was strongest among older drivers, 85% of those over 65 were "very supportive", while support among women stood at 80.77%, slightly higher than support among men which stood at 77.85%.

Age breakdown: It was recently announced that Gardaí would begin roadside drug testing to identify drivers over legal limits for certain prescription and non-prescription drugs which could affect driving ability. To what extent do you support this idea?

Conor Faughnan, AA Director of Consumer Affairs, said. "Gardaí have always had the ability to test drivers for drugs which may impair their driving ability but had previously relied on less scientific testing such as a balance test.

"From now on, at specific checkpoints set up for the purposes of drug testing, a saliva sample will be taken by Gardaí and a result will be provided to Gardaí within 15 minutes. In the event of a positive test the driver will then be brought back to the Garda station where a blood sample will be taken for further analysis."

However, in response to concerns surrounding the testing for prescription drugs, the AA have said that Gardaí will also be required to prove that the motorist’s ability to drive has been affected by the medication.

Mr Faughnan said: "If you are taking a prescribed medication in accordance with your doctor’s advice and have not been told that you cannot drive while using it then there is no cause for concern.

"However, if you do have any doubts about your medication or have felt side-effects which may impact your driving ability after taking the medication then it’s important to consult your doctor or pharmacist to get the best advice or an alternative medication is necessary."

It was recently announced that Gardaí would begin roadside drug testing to identify drivers over legal limits for certain prescription and non-prescription drugs which could affect driving ability. To what extent do you support this idea?

In the event that a driver is found to have a level of benzodiazepines in their system which results in a positive test, they can only be charged with an offence if Gardaí can prove impairment, according to advice the motoring organisation received from the Medical Bureau of Road Safety.

Mr Faughnan said: “When we bring up the word ‘drugs’ we all jump to thinking of illegal substances such as cocaine or heroin, which the new technology will test for, but we sometimes overlook the ways prescription medication can affect your driving.

“If you are taking Valium, for example, in accordance with your doctor’s advice and you have not been told that you cannot drive then you will not be impacted by this new testing. However, at times we can be a nation of self-medicators and if you start ignoring your doctor’s advice and taking more than the recommended dosage then you do run the risk of a failed result and having your driving ability affected by your medication which could ultimately result in a driving ban.”

Rural breakdown: It was recently announced that Gardaí would begin roadside drug testing to identify drivers over legal limits for certain prescription and non-prescription drugs which could affect driving ability. To what extent do you support this idea?

“The last thing we want to see is people who are taking prescription drugs for legitimate reasons worried about a failed test or a driving ban. If you are following your doctor or pharmacists advice and the medication you are taking does not impair your driving ability then this new testing isn’t a cause for concern.”

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