Drug-driving Bill proposes €5,000 penalty and jail time
Fresh legislation to target lawless drivers taking narcotics: Cocaine, cannabis or heroin
Cannabis can remain in a person’s system for more than a week, and drivers would be charged regardless of when they took it.
A new Bill to strengthen the law on drug-driving has been approved on Tuesday after earlier discussion by the Cabinet.
The legislation will introduce penalties for driving after taking cocaine, cannabis or heroin.
The law would also bring in similar penalties for drug driving as those already in place for drink driving.
A driver found to be impaired because of drug-taking would face a €5,000 fine and/or six months in prison on conviction and then a one-year disqualification for the first offence and two-year disqualifications for subsequent offences.
The Bill will set out unacceptable blood drug levels for different types of narcotics. A different test will apply to drivers who may be impaired after taking prescription drugs.
Cannabis can remain in a person’s system for more than a week.
Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe said drivers found with traces of cannabis in their blood would be charged with an offence regardless of when they took it.
“We have a growing amount of evidence that indicates very clearly that the presence of drugs like that can impair your ability to drive a vehicle safely,” he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.
Speaking at the launch of the Health Research Board’s report into Irish drug-related deaths in 2013, Minister for State with responsibility for drugs, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, said that he was confident the Bill would alter attitudes to drug-driving.
“Certainly in wider society, politics and the media, there is a level of acceptance of alcohol and drug misuse which is worrying. But we have managed to change trends in the past,” he said.
“There used to be a cultural acceptance of drink-driving and that has dissipated over time.”
Authorities have signed off on the supply of a new testing kit that will allow gardaí test motorists for drugs by analysing a swab taken from inside a driver’s cheek.
Meanwhile campaigning road-safety group Promoting Awareness, Responsibility and Care (Parc) welcomed the Bill to introduce roadside testing of drivers for the presence of heroin, cannabis or cocaine in the blood.
Parc also noted that the Bill will also include a separate test for the impairment of drivers for prescription drugs.
The enactment and enforcement of this legislation should bring comfort to all law-abiding road users who are concerned for their own safety and that of others, it said.
The pressure group added that it is time that drug-drivers were taken off our roads to save lives and prevent injuries.
Those on prescribed drugs have nothing to fear as long as they abide by the instructions from the pharmacist and doctor, it added.