Just 11 drivers have tested positive for drugs at new checkpoints

TD calls for increase in Garda resources over ‘low’ drug-driving detection rate

In the first three months of  new checkpoints, the only motorists who tested positive for the presence of drugs were from the Dublin region. Photograph: Eric Luke

In the first three months of new checkpoints, the only motorists who tested positive for the presence of drugs were from the Dublin region. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Figures from An Garda Síochána show just 11 motorists have tested positive for driving under the influence of drugs at new Garda roadside checkpoints in four months.

The mandatory intoxicant testing checkpoints were rolled out in early April, and since then 11 drivers have tested positive for driving while on intoxicants.

In the first three months of the checkpoints, the only motorists who tested positive for the presence of intoxicants were from the Dublin region.

The provisional figures from gardaí show three drivers tested positive for driving under the influence of drugs in April at the new checkpoints – followed by one positive test in May, five positive tests in June and two in July.

The new checkpoints were brought in to test drivers suspected of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the roadside.

The figures were obtained by Tommy Broughan TD, following a parliamentary question to the Department of Justice.

Testing

Mr Broughan said it was welcome that testing for drug-driving had begun, but that the initial number of drivers testing positive for intoxicants and drugs seemed low.

“The need to increase Garda and traffic corps resources back to 2008/2009 levels to enable more roadside checks may be a key factor here,” Mr Broughan said.

In 2009, there were 1,200 gardaí working in traffic corps divisions across the country; in July this year, the traffic unit staffing level was 663 officers.

The staffing levels have dropped by about 7 per cent over the last year: in May 2016 there were 711 gardaí working in traffic divisions.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice said the initial results of the new intoxicant checkpoints were “welcome”.

“These drivers were caught and prevented from driving and thereby endangering the lives of other road users,” a spokesman said.

Under the influence

Previously if a garda suspected a motorist was under the influence of drugs a sample of blood or urine would have to be taken at a Garda station, and then sent to the Medical Bureau of Road Safety for testing.

The figures only relate to motorists who tested positive at the new Garda traffic checkpoints. Drivers stopped under the suspicion of driving while intoxicated outside of a checkpoint and taken back to be tested at a Garda station are not included in the statistics.

The testing device used at the checkpoints is the Dräger DrugTest 5000, which the bureau has decided to replace. The more up-to-date equipment will be rolled out across Garda stations in early 2018.

The new devices have the capacity to download testing results automatically, reducing the chances of errors occurring when collecting the data.