On-the-spot loss of licence for drug drivers under new laws being proposed by SA-BEST

9 September 2020

Motorists and motorcyclists detected with illicit drugs in their system will lose their licence on the spot – the same as many drink drivers – under tough news laws being proposed by SA-BEST. 

SA-BEST MLC and Attorney General spokesperson, Connie Bonaros, said the new measures are urgently needed to tackle the increasing number of motorists being caught with illicit drugs in their system – and especially given the state’s unenviable reputation as the “ice capital” of Australia. 

Many of these drivers have been responsible for fatal and/or serious road accidents which have claimed innocent lives. 

Connie will today introduce the Road Traffic (Drug Screening) Amendment Bill 2020 - which amends the Road Traffic Act 1961 – and has two primary objectives. 

Firstly, it gives frontline police officers the power to impose immediate licence disqualification or suspension for drug driving. 

Secondly, the proposed new laws will allow police to use a positive road-side drug test as grounds to automatically search the vehicle and/or obtain a search warrant to search other property – powers police currently don’t have. 

The move has been supported by alarming drug driving statistics released to SA-BEST by SAPOL through a Freedom of Information request revealing 97 per cent of roadside-detected drug drivers also had their follow up saliva tests confirm positive drug use. 

Under her proposal, any motorist detected with illegal drugs in their system will automatically lose their licence until their matter has been dealt with in the courts - which could include a further disqualification. 

Currently, any motorist who tests positive to drugs at a roadside saliva test is required to provide a secondary sample which SAPOL then sends off for laboratory testing. 

Yet unlike drink drivers, their licence is not automatically suspended, and after a mandatory 24-hour suspension following the roadside test, they are allowed to resume driving until the results of the laboratory test is known and the motorist is notified by SAPOL. 

The proposed new laws will bring drug drivers in line with drink drivers. 

“These tough new laws SA-BEST is proposing are designed to save lives,” said Connie. 

“Too many lives – both drug drivers and innocent motorists - have been lost on our roads due to drug driving,” she said. 

“The community has had enough. It is obvious the current penalties aren’t tough enough and that drug drivers are blatantly flouting the current laws at great cost to human lives and the broader community.” 

Connie said shocking SAPOL statistics justify the proposed new laws. 

Between 2014 and 2018, an average of 21% - or one in five - drivers or riders killed on South Australian roads tested positive to THC (the active component in cannabis), methylamphetamine (speed, ice or crystal meth), MDMA (ecstasy) or a combination of these drugs. 

Unlike alcohol-related road fatalities, the number of motorists killed in road accidents who tested positive to drugs is increasing, with an average of 13 drivers/riders killed testing positive each year – with numerous other people/passengers also killed and/or injured. 

Connie also debunked the theory/myth that drug drivers’ licences weren’t automatically suspended on the spot due to the fact the second, laboratory test normally tested negative. 

A Freedom of Information search undertaken by SA-BEST revealed that of 6064 – more than 100 a week - positive roadside drug tests given in 2019, only 163 – or 2.7% - returned a negative result in the laboratory. 

Of 6354 positive roadside drug tests given in 2018, only 289 – or 4.5 % - returned a negative result in the laboratory. 

“The prevalence of drug drivers on our roads is totally unacceptable,” Connie said. 

“From SAPOL statistics, we have an accurate picture of the number of people charged for driving with illicit drugs in their system, but what we don’t know is how many people are driving while under the influence of drugs and aren’t being caught,” she said. 

“Police have reported incidents where parents have been busted for drug driving while driving their children to school, yet outrageously, they are still able to keep driving until their court appearance or upon payment of a fine. 

“We also don’t know the cost to the community for the injuries and harm drug drivers cause through their actions. 

“If motorists driving under the influence of illicit drugs are not prepared to act responsibly, that responsibility must be taken away from them through tougher and increased penalties. 

“The new laws being proposed by SA-BEST do just that.”

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