Stop Evidence-Free Roadside Drug Testing

The following was authored by David Shoebridge, Sydney, Australia, who has started a petition calling for an evidence-based approach to roadside drug-testing in NSW, instead of the current arbitrary and woefully incomplete scheme. You can sign the petition here.

The current roadside drug testing regime is arbitrary, invasive and has no relationship to the impairment of drivers on our roads.

The NSW Police openly admit they are testing drivers for the mere presence of drugs and that the levels they are testing for have no connection with impairment. These tests are then used to take people’s drivers licenses for up to 12 months and to impose additional heavy fines on them.

The police roadside drug testing is limited to only three illegal drugs – cannabis, MDMA and amphetamines.  Meanwhile prescription drugs that seriously impair drivers and are commonly found to contribute to traffic accidents, including benzodiazepines and prescription pain killers, are never tested for.

Unlike drug driving testing, roadside RBT programs for alcohol have been successful and strongly supported because they test for levels of alcohol that are known to impair driving performance.

The UK government has undertaken a detailed review that identifies the level of drugs, legal and illegal, that actually impair drivers. This is the best evidence available and could allow police to undertake a credible drug testing program that delivered safer roads by removing drug impaired drivers from them. However the NSW police and government are ignoring this evidence.

Strong evidence suggests the testing is also not random, with many drivers repeatedly tested over short periods of time. This flawed drug testing regime is much more about ideology and the war on drugs than any serious attempt at driver safety.

Despite the evidence, NSW Police plan to triple the number of these arbitrary and unfair tests they perform with a goal of conducting 100,000 tests each year. This cannot be allowed to continue.

We are calling on the NSW Police to immediately end the flawed roadside drug testing operations and replace it with an evidence based scheme that reliably tests for impairment and that covers all the drugs, legal and illegal, that pose the greatest risk for road safety.

You can sign the petition here.

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