In Victoria there is no fair distinction made between impairment and having detectable traces of a drug in ones system.
The following text is a series of out-takes from the (Vic) Road Safety Act 1986 and the (Vic) Road Safety (General) Regulations 2019 which describe the particular law around how an RDT operation is conducted, the responsibilities of the driver and the conditions which are required to determine whether or not the law has been broken, including the device in question, Securetec’s DrugWipe (pictured left).
The purposes of this Act are-
(a) to provide for safe, efficient and equitable road use; and
(ab) to set out the general obligations of road users in relation to responsible road use;
In releases and quotes to the media[link1][link2][link3][link4], police often claim that a positive detection through their RDT program indicates a ‘drug driver’, a term which insinuates that the person was impaired at the time of detection. Perhaps one of the most egregious examples is the continued moralising at festival-goers over positive detections. Following Rainbow Serpent Festival’s 2016 event, Ballarat’s Inspector Bruce Thomas was quoted[link4] saying, “It was a miracle that no one was killed on our roads given the number of drug drivers departing from the festival.”
The broad figures are used to frame an argument that there are many Victorians impaired by drugs on the road, therefore a widening of the current RDT program is required to improve road safety outcomes. What this means in practice is the purchasing of tens of thousands of the DrugWipe devices and the rolling out of more testing operations, both costly in terms of money and resources such as personnel.
Though there certainly are people who drive impaired by a drug, the number is likely to be far less than that derived through the current RDT program using the prescribed device, Securetec’s DrugWipe.
The goal of the RDT program is the same as any law under the Road Safety Act 1986, “to provide for safe, efficient and equitable road use; and to set out the general obligations of road users in relation to responsible road use.”
There is no community disagreement over road use being safe, efficient and equitable. Perhaps it could be said that an obligation of road users is to have no drugs at all in ones system, but that begs the question, does any detection of a drug in ones system indicate that a person was not approaching road use responsibly?
Check out our podcasts and posts on the topic to learn more about Securetec’s device, the current law and why there is a mismatch between detection and impairment. At the moment, it appears that the Road Safety Act and the resources which are allocated to enforce it and keep our roads safe are being used for a proxy prohibition war on people who use certain drugs, regardless of their ability to drive a car safely.
We need policies that focus on removing IMPAIRED drivers from the road, no matter what drug they have taken or if they are impaired in some other way.
News and Blogs
RDT Victoria Timeline
Research: Drugs & Driving
March 1, 2010
Drugs & Driving, Prevention Research Quarterly, DrugInfo Clearing House Australian Drug Foundation Professor Con Stough and Rebecca King, Drugs and Driving Research Unit, Brain Sciences Institute, Swinburne University, Melbourne, Victoria Detection of impaired driving Read more
Research: Cannabis and Impaired Driving
October 1, 2001
An Evaluation of the Efficiency of Sobriety Testing to Detect Blood Levels of Cannabis and Impaired Driving Ability, Katherine Papafotiou, BAppSc. (Hons). October 2001 Read more
Road Safety (Amendment) Act 2000
April 12, 2000
Road Safety (Amendment) Act 2000, PARLIAMENT OF VICTORIA Clause 6 New offences relating to driving while impaired by a drug Section 49(1) Read more
Drugs And Driving Unit Established
May 1, 1997
The Drugs and Driving Unit (DDRU) Was established in 1997 to conduct high quality research in the general area of drugs consumption and driving. Read more
Inquiry Into Effect of Drugs on Road Safety
November 11, 1996
INQUIRY INTO EFFECTS OF DRUGS (OTHER THAN ALCOHOL) ON ROAD SAFETY IN VICTORIA, Parliament of Victoria Report Introduction I Chairman’s Preface This Report concludes the Inquiry into the effects of drugs (other than alcohol) on road safety in Victoria. Read more