The Berejiklian government’s announcement that cocaine will be included in the roadside drug testing scheme is a welcome change to a deeply flawed scheme. It comes after years of campaigning for this change by the Greens NSW.
However until adequate tests are in place for prescription drugs such as benzodiazepines and the scheme is testing for impairment rather than just the mere presence of drugs the scheme will not make our roads safer.
Greens police and justice spokesperson, David Shoebridge, welcomed cocaine being included in the roadside drug testing scheme.
He said its original exclusion, and the continued exclusion of benzodiazepines, ‘shows how skewed the drug driving policy of the NSW government is, focusing more on a handful of illegal drugs rather than keeping drug affected drivers off the road.’
‘For years the Greens NSW have been calling for cocaine to be included in RDT however the fact it is normally used by those with more wealth and political power means it has been left out of police testing until now,’ Mr Shoebridge said.
‘Even with the inclusion of cocaine, the roadside drug testing scheme remains deeply flawed.
Not testing for impairment
‘Unlike breath testing for alcohol, it does not test for impairment, just the presence of a substance,’ he said.
‘Cannabis consumed days, or even a week, ago can still trigger a positive test.
‘In one case a person was charged after having consumed cannabis a full nine days before driving.
‘If the goal of the testing program is road safety and punishment, why are cases like this occurring?’ Mr Shoebridge queried.
He added that police ‘are testing and charging people who smoked a joint last week but letting drivers impaired by benzodiazepines slip through tests undetected.’
‘Benzodiazepines are present in almost a third of drivers involved in drug-related crashes and their misuse puts other road users at risk.
War on drugs
‘In its present form the roadside testing program is an expansion of the failed war on drugs.
‘When a magistrate can’t tell whether a person who failed an RDT was an impaired driver or just had a tiny trace of cannabis in their system it is irresponsible and unjust to increase penalties.
‘More lives would be saved by a scheme that tests for all drugs. legal and illegal, and one that tests for impairment, not the mere presence of a drug’, said Mr Shoebridge.