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Roadside Drug Testing Australia: The Need to Know

12 February, 2024

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Drug-impaired driving contributes to 10-30% of road accidents in Australia. It poses significant risks not just to the driver but to other motorists as well. In response to this concern, the law enforces strict roadside drug testing in Australia. This program aims to deter drug abuse and driving while under the influence of illicit substances. Police officers conduct random and mandatory inspections to test the presence of drugs in the system. Individuals with positive tests may face legal repercussions.

The use of illegal drugs has several negative consequences for individuals and the community as a whole. It impairs judgment, coordination, and reaction time, all of which are crucial for safe driving. Therefore, drug-impaired driving increases the likelihood of accidents, injuries, and even fatalities on the road. This article will delve into the need for roadside drug testing, the types of tests, and the legal implications.

The Need for Roadside Drug Testing in Australia

The importance of roadside drug testing in Australia has grown in recent years due to the increase in drug-related driving incidents. This makes it a major concern for authorities and the public alike, highlighting the urgency of implementing measures to detect drivers who are under the influence of drugs. Consequently, it deters individuals from engaging in illicit drug use.

Various substances can negatively impact the ability to drive safely, including marijuana or cannabis, methamphetamines, cocaine, and ecstasy. These drugs impair the mental capabilities and motor skills of a person, making them more likely to cause accidents on the road. Thus, roadside testing can identify the drivers who pose risks and remove them on the road before an accident happens.

Moreover, roadside tests include mandatory and random inspections. In mandatory testing, all drivers undergo drug testing when pulled over by police officers. This ensures that no driver can escape detection if they are under the influence of drugs. On the other hand, random testing allows officers to test drivers with or without any reasonable suspicion.

Benefits of Random Testing as a Deterrent

  • Random testing increases the perception of risk, serving as a deterrent against drug driving due to fear of getting caught.
  • Deterring impaired driving reduces the risk of accidents and other safety hazards to both the drivers and innocent road users.
  • It discourages drug use altogether, minimising the likelihood of abuse and other health risks.
  • Random testing helps individuals avoid getting drug driving charges, such as fines, license suspension, and even imprisonment.
  • It increases the peace of mind of other road users, knowing that there are measures in place to detect and remove drug-impaired drivers from the road.

An officer conducting a sobriety test to a male driver

Types of Roadside Drug Testing in Australia

Roadside drug testing in Australia involves various methods to detect illicit drugs in the system. The primary method in drug screening is the saliva test. This type is quick, non-invasive, and provides immediate results, making them convenient and efficient for roadside testing. The test involves collecting a saliva sample using an oral swab, which then undergoes on-the-spot analysis.

If in case the driver cannot produce saliva, such as a dry mouth, a urine test may be conducted as an alternative. Police officers will take the driver to a nearby mobile laboratory or police station to obtain the urine sample. If both urine and saliva samples are unavailable, officers can request a blood test. This method provides a more accurate measurement of drug levels in the system but is more invasive and time-consuming.

Another type of test is the breath test using a portable breathalyser device. However, this method detects alcohol exclusively. The device can measure the blood alcohol level or the degree of intoxication. Law enforcement combines testing for alcohol and drugs to ensure comprehensive detection of impaired driving.

What is the Most Commonly Used by Police Officers?

Police officers use saliva or oral fluid analysis because it is easy to administer. They can obtain oral fluid samples by swabbing the inside of the mouth. This procedure can be done under close supervision and does not need private restrooms, unlike urine testing. Hence, it saves time and resources.

Furthermore, saliva samples can determine drug use within a short detection window of 5 to 24 hours. This makes it ideal for identifying recent consumption and impairment. Additionally, it provides rapid results, which allows officers to take appropriate action promptly, such as issuing fines, suspending licenses, or conducting further testing.

A justice scale, rule book, and gavel on the table

Legal Implications of Roadside Drug Testing in Australia

Roadside drug testing in Australia carries significant legal implications for drivers who test positive for prohibited substances. Firstly, drug driving laws specify that it is an offence to operate a motor vehicle with illegal drugs in the system. It includes whether the person is impaired or not. Secondly, violations of this law constitute corresponding penalty units, driving disqualification, and jail time.

It is important for all drivers, including learner drivers, to know the consequences of drug driving. In Australia, the penalties for drug driving can vary depending on the state or territory, but they generally include fines, license suspension, and, in some cases, imprisonment. Any amount of prohibited drugs in the system can lead to these penalties.

For drink driving, individuals can face legal charges if the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is 0.05% or above. The higher the BAC level, the more severe the penalties. Moreover, individuals incurring these violations need to attend legal proceedings. Thus, seeking legal advice from lawyers is important to understand their rights and navigate the legal process effectively.

Fines and Penalties

Australia imposes heavy fines and penalties to discourage drug-impaired driving. The penalties for a first-time drug driving offence can range from several hundred to thousands of dollars. This may also include an automatic license suspension. Repeat or subsequent offences can incur larger sums and longer prison terms.

In the case of repeat drink driving, the court may impose an alcohol interlock order. This requires the driver to install an interlock device in their vehicle, which measures their BAC before allowing the vehicle to start. The driver is responsible for the costs of installing and maintaining the device.

Conclusion

Roadside drug testing in Australia is a preventative measure in ensuring road safety and preventing impaired-related accidents. It can also serve as an effective deterrent against substance abuse and drug driving. Police officers implement this test in two ways: mandatory and random. This means that drivers can be tested at any time. Additionally, there are various methods to detect drugs, with saliva testing as the primary type. Other methods include urine, blood, and breath analysis.

Furthermore, testing positive in a roadside test has several legal implications. This includes fines, licence suspension, and imprisonment. Therefore, it is important to know the laws and consequences of drug driving in Australia. Fortunately, there are measures that individuals can take to avoid these legal implications, such as abstinence and using test kits to monitor their own medication use. Finally, it is recommended to seek professional help for individuals with substance use disorders.

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