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Roadside Drug Testing NSW: Overview

30 January, 2024

A roadside drug testing unit vehicle on the road

Roadside drug testing in NSW is an essential tool that law enforcement uses. It helps them detect drivers under the influence of drugs so they can be apprehended. The testing methods are saliva, blood, and urine tests. The saliva test is typically done first, with the latter two following if necessary. During the test, the driver must provide an adequate sample. If the result is positive, they can be taken in for a second test.

Drugs can cause various impairments that increase the risk of accidents. This includes slower reaction times, loss of coordination, and lower cognitive abilities. Hence, police officers conduct random drug tests to ensure road safety. This helps protect all road users from possible accidents. It can also serve as an effective deterrent against drug misuse. This article will present information about roadside tests, the types of methods used, and the procedures.

What is a Roadside Drug Testing in NSW?

Roadside drug testing in NSW refers to the practice of screening for the presence of drugs in their system, specifically while they are on the road. It is a vital measure for ensuring road safety and preventing accidents caused by drug driving. In NSW, drug-impaired driving is a serious offence. Hence, law enforcement can pull over vehicles and ask them to submit to a test.

The main difference between random breath and random drug testing is that the former tests for impairment, and the latter tests for presence. This means that if the driver does not exceed the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit, they are not breaking road laws. Meanwhile, even if a driver is not impaired by the drug, officers can still consider them as committing a drug driving offence.

The penalties for these traffic offences can range from fines and licence suspensions to imprisonment. This can cause significant financial damage and have various consequences for future endeavours. Hence, abiding by road laws is crucial.

Purpose of Roadside Testing

  • The primary purpose of roadside drug tests is to identify individuals who are driving while under the influence of drugs and stop them from operating the vehicle.
  • Drug roadside testing can deter individuals from misusing illegal drugs, over-the-counter medicines, and prescription drugs before driving.
  • Roadside tests can reduce the risks of accidents. This can save people from injuries and fatal accidents.
  • It helps ensure that drivers comply with the drug driving laws.
  • It can help create safer roadways while protecting all road users.
  • Testing emphasises the commitment of law enforcement agencies to safeguarding road safety.

Police officers stopping a few cars

Common Types of Methods in a Roadside Drug Testing in NSW

Law enforcement uses a few methods for roadside drug testing in NSW. The first method is an oral fluid test. This is a commonly used screening method because it is non-invasive and easy to conduct. Moreover, the officer can supervise the entire process, removing the risks of tampering or adulteration of the saliva samples. It has a detection time of about 12 to 24 hours, depending on the substance.

blood test is another method that officers can use. They typically conduct this in a hospital if the officer has reasonable suspicion that the individual was driving under the influence of drugs. They can also ask for this if a death occurred because of the accident. Blood testing is a highly accurate method with longer detection times than saliva testing.

Lastly, urine testing is another option that police officers can ask for. Like blood tests, this is done at a hospital as a supplementary test. Of the three options, this offers the lengthiest detection period. It is also non-invasive but requires using toilet facilities.

Substances that Can be Detected

A roadside test typically tests for only four substances. These are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), methamphetamine, cocaine, and ecstasy. These are all substances that can cause severe impairments and endanger road safety. They are common recreational drugs, which is why NSW police officers specifically look out for these.

Meanwhile, a secondary lab screening can also test for gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), and phencyclidine (PCP). Lab technicians may also add panels for other drugs for a more comprehensive screen. In doing so, they can gain evidence for possible charges or put them on their record.

A police officer talking to a driver

Procedure for Roadside Drug Testing in NSW

The procedure for roadside drug testing in NSW initially involves conducting a saliva test. To administer this, the officer may ask the driver to provide saliva samples by swabbing the collection pad of the testing device. After getting an adequate sample, the officer can proceed with the onsite analysis. It will typically take about five minutes for the results to appear.

If the first test is positive, they will conduct a second test at a mobile drug bus or a police station. They may also send samples to a laboratory for a more thorough assessment. If the second test produces a negative result, the police may let the driver go and drive home.

However, it is crucial to remember that refusing a random drug test is an offence. In some cases, the penalties for refusing the test can be more severe than testing positive. Hence, if the driver cannot provide a saliva sample for medical reasons, they should explain this to the officer. If the officer accepts the reason, they may take the driver to a medical facility to get blood samples drawn.

What Happens After a Positive Result?

Failing to pass or having a positive result can cause severe potential consequences. However, the specific outcome can vary depending on the circumstances related to the test. Generally, after failing the second roadside saliva test, they will prohibit the individual from driving for 24 hours.

Afterwards, they will send a sample for laboratory testing. They may use advanced equipment and techniques such as gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to analyse the specimen. The confirmation report can support or refute the initial results. The police officer can also take them to a hospital for a blood and urine test.

Conclusion

Roadside drug testing in NSW is crucial for maintaining road safety. It is a measure wherein police officers ask random vehicles to pull over for a drug test. The police officers may conduct a saliva test to confirm the presence of drugs. Typically, the substances they can look for with their test include THC, ecstasy, cocaine, and methamphetamines. Unlike breath testing for alcohol, the presence of the drug is enough to charge them with a drug-driving offence.

The penalties of the offence can vary, depending on the specific circumstance. Drivers can face fines, licence suspensions, or even imprisonment if they cause a fatal crash. Besides saliva tests, officers can also ask for blood and urine tests, which will be conducted at a hospital. They may also send saliva samples for laboratory testing for a more comprehensive analysis. Drivers must remember that refusing a test also has severe penalties.

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