Drug driver testing to increase
By Nadia Surace
WITHIN a week drivers across the region will be tested more frequently for cannabis and amphetamine use with Shepparton Police awaiting the arrival of new testing equipment.
Shepparton Highway Patrol Sergeant, Jeffrey Kyne says the Cozart Drug Detection System, first introduced as part of a Victoria Police trial program at Wodonga and Wangaratta four years ago, will allow officers to conduct more tests more frequently.
The saliva testing equipment will be used at Shepparton Police Station to test suspected drug drivers following a positive road-side saliva test.
If this second test is also positive, the sample is sent to a Melbourne laboratory for confirmation as the basis for charging the driver.
“Previously we would have to take drivers who tested positive at the drug buses over to Wodonga and Wangaratta for the second. Now we’ll be able to test people far more often,” said Sgt Kyne.
“I would estimate that we will test a minimum of 20 drivers here a week once the equipment arrives.”
Cozart Drug Detection Systems have already been distributed to other regional centres including Mildura, Bendigo, Horsham, Stawell and Bairnsdale.
Victoria Police Road Policing Drug and Alcohol Inspector, Martin Boorman said the roll-out recognises that drug-driving isn’t just a metropolitan issue and aims to remove people who think it is okay to take drugs and drive from the State’s roads.
He explained that in 2004, Victoria was the first place in the world to commence a random drug testing program, up until which time involvement of drugs in fatal road collisions was increasing prior to 2004.
He says that after the program was introduced, it has been steadily decreasing.
In 2005, 25 per cent of drivers involved in fatal collisions tested positive for illicit drugs, in 2009 that statistic was 15 per cent.
Insp Boorman said that community awareness campaigns through the TAC had also played a strong role in combating the issue.
“While the involvement of illicit drugs in road trauma is decreasing – it is still a very significant issue for police and the community.
“Cannabis can affect drivers’ reaction times and coordination, while speed, ecstasy and cocaine can create a sense of over confidence, risk taking, as well as impact on reflexes and concentration.
Last year, 41,642 drivers underwent road-side drug tests, with 692 detected with illicit drugs in their system – a detection rate of 1 in 60.
The 12 month trial in Wodonga and Wangaratta saw a detection rate of 1 in 20.
Drug testing carried out in Shepparton last month saw a detection rate of 1 in 9.
Penalties for roadside drug screening offences
First offence (traffic infringement notice) – $358 penalty notice and three months licence/permit suspension.
First offence – (court penalty) – Up to 12 penalty units fine. Minimum three months licence/permit cancellation. Court may record a conviction.
Second offence – (court penalty) – Up to 60 penalty units fine. Minimum six months licence/permit cancellation. Court may record a conviction.