On driving past the Mullumbimby High School last week I noted four Highway Patrol vehicles with officers conducting roadside testing on passing drivers in the bus bays. While school hours provides a convenient spot to interrogate drivers, it did seem a little intimidating to have the boys in blue out the front of a country town school.
I had a closer look to check it wasn’t some special ‘support your police force with a lamington drive’ fundraiser, but no, it was clear that highway-patrol business was underway.
Driving past and seeing four cop cars outside your local high school is not good PR, either for people driving past or the people inside. It feels scary. Even I start getting the fear and I don’t even smoke pot. I start feeling like I’ve done something wrong.
I parked in a ‘disabled’ spot once. When I was pregnant I refused to wear a seatbelt. When I was at uni I used to survive by shoplifting law books and selling them to undergraduates. It wasn’t just the cash I loved, it was the irony.
But today I’m wondering if I have reefer madness. What if the joint I smoked when I was 25 had lodged THC in one of my fat cells and chose today, 23 years later, to release it? I didn’t even have a car when I was 25. Imagine the humiliation of losing my licence at 48 for weed I smoked two decades ago.
I don’t see the urgent need for middle-of-the-day roadside drug testing for drivers who may have had a joint three days ago, or even three minutes ago. Why the witch-hunt on potheads? They’re not new. They’ve always been there. I’m not worried about their driving.
At worst stoned people are boring. They laugh at things that don’t make sense. And they make some questionable wardrobe choices like ‘Hey, what about I wear this open vest with no shirt with my wraparound pants?’ While it’s sometimes an affront to my fashion senses, I don’t think it should involve a criminal record and possible incarceration.
I don’t give a hoot about stoners at the wheel. They’re super careful. In fact, I’m thinking of proposing a new road safety campaign where it’s mandated that all drivers must be stoned. Bill Hicks had the same idea, and suggested that the highways would be clear, just pizza delivery vans passing each other. People wouldn’t just give way, they’d get out and give you a hug as well.
I don’t think pot smokers are a serious risk on the road. I’m more worried about the crazed fuckers on Ice that have almost mowed me down at the pedestrian crossing twice now. Why aren’t we testing for amphetamines? Or opiates? Or prescription drugs? I can take four oxycontin, a blast on the ice pipe, two lines of coke, have pupils like dinner plates and come up clean on my roadside drug test. ‘You’re right to go, madam.’ Straight back home to my big sheet of lysergic acid and freezer full of magic mushrooms and go back for another clear result on my test.
What have our peace-loving stoners done to attract the sudden police attention? Has new evidence come to light showing cannabis use to be a major cause of road fatality? I don’t think so. Few drivers have been killed cornering at 13 kilometres an hour.
Stoned drivers in my experience tend to exercise extreme caution. No, that’s an understatement. Extreme extreme caution. This is irritating, but seldom dangerous. They can take three hours to leave the driveway. Then they’ve forgotten why they’d left in the first place, and end up having to return home.
And while we’re focusing on unsafe drivers, why don’t we target some unsafe personality types? Is there a test to detect your level ‘emotionally volatile arsehole’? Can we detect ‘people with low self-esteem who seek power and control behind the wheel?’ My father died in a car accident, my kids are driving, I’m all for road safety. But I think the sooner we test for ALL unsafe road behaviours, the better.