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Byron Shire
March 5, 2021

North Coast drivers top the state in drug driving charges

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There is growing disquiet about the NSW drug driving testing regime. (file pic)
There is growing disquiet about the NSW drug driving testing regime. (file pic)

North Coast drivers are more than five times likely to be caught driving with drugs in their system than any other drivers in the state according to figures released today by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics.

Research from the Bureau has found that the number of people facing charges of drug driving had more than tripled  in the 24 months to 2016.

In the financial year 2014/15, 2,331 drug driving charges were finalised in the NSW Local Court. In the 2015/16 financial year, that number rose to 9,808, an increase of 320 per cent.

The Bureau found that the overwhelming majority of persons found guilty of drug driving offences were males (79.3%) and persons aged between 18 and 39 years (72.4%).

Surprisingly, the rate of prosecution was two times higher in Regional NSW than the state average (180 per 100,000 compared to 93 per 100,000).

Particularly high rates of drug driving were found in the Richmond Tweed area, where the conviction rate for drug driving is more than five times the State rate.

The Bureau said almost all drug driving charges brought to court are proven. The most common penalties imposed are fines and Section 10 bonds (i.e. no conviction recorded), however approximately 80 per cent of persons found guilty also received a period of mandatory licence disqualification in addition to their principal penalty.

The growth in license disqualification has led to a surge in people being convicted driving while disqualified.

The number of offenders previously found guilty of drug driving and later being found guilty of driving while disqualified more than tripled (from 133 to 542) in the 12 months to June 2016 compared with the 12 months to June 2015.

Hemp Embassy president Michael Balderstone said there were no surprises in the figures.

‘There is a lot of anger in the community about this because we know, and the police know, that this testing is nothing to do with impaired driving,’ Mr Balderstone said.

‘In American states where they have legalised cannabis car accidents and road deaths are down by more than ten per cent.’

‘We are the only country on earth doing this (drug driving tests) and it really is serious bullying, and totally un-Australian.’





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  1. Figures don’t lie ,
    So, this proves that this area is victim to over-policing, which has been ramped up in an attempt to close the most popular tourist destination in NSW, Nimbin.
    This is stupid and short sighted because small business in the North Coast area are either dependent or benefit greatly from this harmless tourist attraction ( beats the s..t out of the Big Prawn ) however, it does help massively to bolster the otherwise pathetic conviction statistics of a police force determined to look the other way while real crime is committed .
    I do notice that there is no greater occurrence of traffic accidents.
    I wonder what that proves ?

    • I do not know the basis of your comment “that there is no greater occurrence of traffic accidents” – our region has a substantially higher rate of road accidents and trauma then the rest of the State, and I would suggest that at least part of that derives from a tolerant attitude to driving under the influence of both legal and illegal substances. And while the reputation the region has for illegal drugs might attract more tourists than our poor old Ballina prawn, I do wonder if the party tourism and with it a tolerant attitude to antisocial behavior – and you cannot get more antisocial than harming people because you want to drive under the influence of any drug – is really the kind of tourism we want to be encouraging. It is up to us to decide what sort of Northern Rivers we live in, and present to the world and to our children. Can I suggest that tourism that focuses on enjoying our natural environment and its produce – walking, surfing or cycling up an appetite to enjoy our gastronomic delights, or the feasts we put on for the mind and spirit at artists, writers and poet’s celebrations might be of better value to our region.

  2. Probably has something to do with the targeted testing we are subjected to. Oh how a bully loves an easy target. Its a terrible paradigm we are living in, and the subservient mass culture that currently provides hegemonic discourse is embarrassing for humanity. At least it can’t last forever.

  3. I wonder why they don’t conduct Road side cocaine testing of drivers in Sydney’s eastern suburbs?

    A little close to home perhaps?

    Odds on the figures for metro “coke” drivers would be 10 time that of us country folk!

    The manufacturer of the drug testing devices NSW Police use offer testing for cocaine, yet it is not conducted. After years of mandatory and now random testing, they have the data and they know the easy targets.

    A little social, economic & geographical profiling/discrimination by our Government in this instance.

    Would be interesting to see a legal challenge on that basis alone!

    Not advocating drug use, but when comparing pot to coke, only one is now being recognised for its medical benefits and that my friends is largely due to the regional folk educating the city slickers on said topic!

    The irony!

  4. The police know that , a reduction in traffic accidents is dependent on the state of the roads – particularly in country NSW . Not pot smoking .
    The police as usual are empire building and intimidating the populace with a fear campaign based on know more evidence than malice .
    It is a pity that the police refuse to face reality and learn from us – the sunny people – the workers – the non drinkers – the professions – the academics – the business people .
    The problems of alcohol in society and the police force are tragic and well documented .
    We welcome the police focus targeting meth amphetamine supply and distribution .
    Could the local police give us an update on this ? More than happy to help .

    • The police do not determine policy on road safety – the government does. There is sufficient evidence, internationally and in Australia, of a correlation between cannabis use and road accidents to try and stop people driving under the influence. People complain that residual cannabis is detected but those people have yet to propose any effective means of detecting recent use. Alcohol is certainly a major problem and drink driving is quite rightly heavily policed in Australia. Our situation is different from the US where, thanks to libertarians that proliferate there, drink driving is less heavily policed in some states so that driving under the influence of the lesser of two evils, cannabis can lead to reductions in drink driving and thereby less harm. We would not tolerate people piloting aircraft or driving trains under the influence of cannabis and there is no reason we should accept a lesser standard for people using as dangerous a vehicle as a motor car. As someone who cycles I feel particularity vulnerable to people who use any drug and drive and so I strongly object to any attempt by people to undermine its policing. Until users are able to present a means of detecting recent cannabis they should accept the current regimen and not drive cars.

  5. Surely you’re not all suggesting that the constabulary is conducting socio-economic or gender-based profiling? That would make the whole testing regime kind of…. well illegal, ideologically driven and fundamentally flawed!

    It’s kind of ironic that this does little to stop drivers from smoking and driving, because its an all-in frame of mind that your buggered whether under the influence or not. Whereas if they were testing for impariment it would surely have the same efficacy as the drink-driving programs which are the most succesful deterent campagins our nation has ever run.


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