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Byron Shire
February 25, 2021

One in six northern rivers drivers tested were on drugs: police

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One in six drivers tested during a blitz at the weekend tested positive to drugs. (image Cheech and Chong, Up in Smoke)
One in six drivers tested during a blitz at the weekend tested positive to drugs. (image Cheech and Chong, Up in Smoke)

One in six drivers tested for drugs during a road blitz in the northern rivers last weekend returned positive results, according to police.

NSW Police have released the results of Operation Mega Drive 2, which they say targeted fatal and injury crashes, and impaired drivers.

Northern Region Traffic and Highway Patrol Command officers conducted 4,020 random breath tests and 622 random drug tests, which resulted in 22 drink drive offences and 104 positive secondary drug tests.

Police said further  action may be undertaken against the drug-impaired drivers following analysis results.

The results come as the NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Police Troy Grant and Minister for Roads Duncan Gay yesterday launched the government’s first ever drug driving campaign to warn motorists that if you take drugs and drive, you will be caught.

‘Today we stand alongside NSW Police, NRMA and our road safety experts to launch the next step in our fight against drug driving,’ Deputy Premier Troy Grant said.

‘From today you’ll start to hear a lot more about Mobile Drug Testing – what we call, MDT.

‘The simple message every driver needs to hear from this campaign is that if you take drugs and drive, the boys in blue are going to catch you.

‘If you’re pulled over by Police, it could be for a random breath test for alcohol, a mobile drug test, or both – so don’t be surprised when it happens to you.”

So far this year, 1 in 10 MDTs have come back positive, compared to around 1 in 300 positive Random Breath Tests for alcohol.

The NSW Government is tripling Mobile Drug Testing to 97,000 tests each year by 2017 to help combat these statistics.


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  1. That’s fantastic !
    So, if one in six drivers are stoned, that means that it must be a lot safer than they make out !
    If it were otherwise the accident rates would be much higher.
    It is so good to see the police finally contributing to the real knowledge of these matters, instead of the blind rhetoric of ‘just say no’ it seems that THC is the preferred drug of safe drivers.

  2. The first large-scale case control study in the United States to assess the crash risks associated with both drug and alcohol use by drivers was undertaken by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in February 2015. Their conclusion was “The study of crash risk … incorporating adjustments for age, gender, ethnicity, and alcohol concentration level did not show a significant increase in levels of crash risk associated with the presence of drugs (specifically marijuana)”. So “no significant increase” in impairment. The whole NSW government and police attitude is not based on science facts but on prejudice. It is clear example of the alcohol, tobacco and Big Pharma lobbyists influencing government policy to persecute and prosecute marijuana users, happily implemented by a police force that has an alcohol based culture.

  3. What a joke this is.

    I know for a fact that many of these “positive” drug test results, conducted by the Police, have been false and proven to be “negative” when tested by independent doctors.

    This is yet another case of the local Police misinforming the public that they are making a difference and reducing the crime rate. By falsifying these crime rates, the Police are denying the North Coast of much-needed extra Police numbers and only increasing their own work load.
    It makes no sense for the Police to justify the reporting of all these “positive” results when many other more serious crimes are not being reported by the public due to the lack of Police resources.

    The victims of these false “positive” drug test results should be compensated for their wasted time being detained and having to prove their innocence in a court.

  4. And imagine how that number would soar if everyone who’d had a drink of alcohol at any time in the last so many days were tested! What a waste of time and money! And those helicopters are back in the sky!

    No, I don’t smoke, grow, or sell dope, and my life will in no way be impacted by those flying machines except for the inherent noise pollution and my increasing irritation re same, but it infuriates me that so much money is literally going up in smoke! Can’t we do better and track down real criminals, or channel that money into issues that will make a real difference?! Bah!

  5. “Last year 16 per cent of ROAD FATALITIES (my emphasis) were caused by drivers under the influence of illegal drugs.”

    So, yep, lets discontinue all driver drug testing!
    And to beat the predictable responses: nope – am not disputing alcohol-caused road fatalities are almost certainly higher. But nobody is suggesting the discontinuation of RBT.

    Ken: no – there is no suggestion that one in six drivers are stoned. The operative words are “drivers TESTED”. Hence, such factors as “where, when and who” are obviously more than a little relevant.
    A little like, say, “90% of child passengers in vehicles found to be female” is hardly valid if the survey was conducted outside a girl’s school at 3.30pm.

    “WASHINGTON — A new report out from the Governors Highway Safety Association finds that driving while on drugs, even marijuana, poses a significant safety risk on our roadways, on par with drunken driving.
    Researchers found that the percentage of drivers killed who tested positive for drugs is almost the same as those who tested positive for any alcohol — 40 percent. More than 5,000 drivers killed each year have drugs in their system at the time of the crash.
    The report puts a special emphasis on marijuana use and its impact on driving because lawmakers across the country are debating whether to legalize the drug.
    “The evidence is very clear that marijuana affects decision times, reaction times and so forth. If you are using marijuana, you are at an increased risk of being in a crash”

    Also, Derek, if you are going to quote a report, at least identify it, even if it was “The first large-scale case control study in the United States to assess the crash risks associated with both drug and alcohol use by drivers was undertaken by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in February 2015”
    Wow! Truly? Nobody thought of conducting a study like this in the US before February this year?

    Scuba: great idea – if the police weren’t wasting their time testing drivers as to whether they were a danger to others on the road, they would be able to address the issue of – lets choose a crime at random here, say, break and enters where the perpetrators were paying for a drug habit.

    Am definitely not in favour of police hiding the in bushes conducting revenue raising radar traps on patently safe dual carriageways, etc. However, I’ll give them full Brownie points for doing everything in their power to ensure the drivers of cars I’m sharing the road with, are on the same planet as me – irrespective of whether they are picking up dope-heads or booze-heads.

  6. Derek,
    Quoting selectively from the study (U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in February 2015) you cited (and why not, that is exactly what you have done):
    “This study of crash risk found a statistically significant increase in unadjusted crash risk for drivers who tested
    positive for use of illegal drugs (1.21 times), and THC specifically (1.25 times)”.

    As Benjamin Disraeli said a few years ago, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics”.

  7. They conducted 4,020 random breath tests and only 622 random drug tests. They only tested for drugs in 1 in 6 of all the drivers pulled over. These drug tests were mostly likely targeted to individuals who ‘fit the profile’ or in areas where drug use is more prevalent. So that is actually less than 1 in 36 drivers were possibly using drugs, given there have been some false positives.
    And statistically – a sample of 622 is not statistically significant considering the numbers of drivers on the road.

    Also… “Drugs” – which ones, specifically? How many of each? My understanding is they test for more than just cannabis. And where is the proof that cannabis impairs driving?

  8. It’s getting so ridiculous that maybe it’s time to take to the streets for this fucking bullshit. Sounds like we are getting close to a massive full on turnout on the streets of Mullum and Byron, it seems like the people must finally realise the power that we have, and it has nothing to do with uniforms and guns. People power, with the W X Y Z and and baby boomer generations combined…there is enough of us now.

  9. Is there a way to find out where and when most of these testings are happening?
    Shirley St Byron in the late evening?
    Anyone organising a web service that warns people what spots to avoid?
    Any way to get an exemption from having to do the saliva test due to chemical sensitivity ?

    IMPORTANT INFO: Despite many reports of false positives and detection from use in previous days, this is the official opinion on what is detected as a positive THC result.
    “Random roadside drug testing can detect THC (the active ingredient in cannabis) for at least several hours after use. The exact time can vary, depending on the amount and potency of the cannabis used and the individual’s metabolism. Inactive THC residue in the body of a driver from use in previous days or weeks will not be detected. – See more at: http://www.druginfo.adf.org.au/fact-sheets/the-facts-about-roadside-drug-testing-web-fact-sheet#sthash.Ppf8WxKp.dpuf

    More good info here


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