Drug drivers are the target of the June Bank Holiday road safety campaign.
Gardaí have reported a 15% rise in the number of people arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), which includes alcohol or drugs or a combination of both, in the first four months of this year. There were 2,694 arrests from January to April, up from 2,343 in the same period last year.
According to the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS), 43% more blood and urine samples have been received for alcohol and drugs testing from January to April.
Most drug driving arrests in 2018 were for cannabis, detected 1,205 times by MBRS last year. Cocaine is now the second most common drug found (549 times), overtaking benzodiazepines (496). Opiates (found 339 times), methadone (117), amphetamine (56), and methamphetamine (42) were also detected in 2018.
Minister for Transport Shane Ross said in a statement: “Driving under the influence of drugs has been a statutory offence since 1961 but it wasn’t until April 2017, with the introduction of Preliminary Drug Testing (PDT), 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 and the accompanying awareness raising campaigns have made a big contribution to tackling this killer behaviour.”
Moyagh Murdock, Chief Executive of the Road Safety Authority, said: “Anyone who drives under the influence of drugs is a clear danger to themselves and others.
Our own research shows that many drug drivers incorrectly believe that certain drugs don’t impair them the way alcohol does and imagine themselves at low risk of collision.
“They also tend to overestimate their driving ability and show little understanding of how drugs affect their driving. Many have poor awareness of the impairing effects of drugs and make bad decisions about driving as a result.
“These drivers also need to be aware of the fact that the Gardaí now have the tools to detect for the presence of drugs at the roadside and in Garda stations and have been very successful in taking drugged drivers off the road. So, you are literally out of your mind to drug drive.”
12 people have been killed and 52 seriously injured in June Bank Holiday collisions in the last five years.