herald

Wednesday 13 December 2017

New laws to allow for drink and drug tests of all drivers

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe
Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe

A MAJOR loophole in Irish drink and drug driving laws will be shut as of today.

Until now, a person in a coma or seriously injured after a road accident could not have their blood levels tested without their consent.

However, under new laws introduced by Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe, a person's blood levels can be tested without their consent to check for the presence of alcohol or drugs.

Mr Donohoe said that the introduction of the new law coincides with the busy Christmas period and explained the process of taking the sample.

"If a driver was brought into hospital unconscious, previously no blood sample could be taken from them.

"But now, specifically in the case of an incident or accident, the doctor can give the consent to take a blood sample from the patient," he explained.

"The blood sample is then taken by another doctor, and when the person is awake they must give consent to have their blood used for testing," the Minister told RTE's Morning Ireland.

The rise in drug-related road accidents has also featured in the new laws, with new devices being looked at to specifically test for the presence of illegal substances.

Figures revealed today also highlighted the prevalence of drug-driving, with over 70pc of drivers stopped between 2007 and 2013 on the suspicion of drug-driving having an illegal narcotic in their system.

The County Kildare Coroner's office also found that from 1998-2009, one in ten drivers who were killed on the county's roads were found to have drugs in their system.

New roadside testing measures will also be introduced, similar to those currently being used in the US.

The impairment tests involve checking a person's pupil balance, walking in a straight line, standing on one leg and lifting a finger to the nose.

Mr Donohoe said that these measures were being introduced because of the success they've had in the US and in the EU.

TRAINING

"We've done extensive training to build on success we've seen in some states in America and European countries like Belgium, where they have been very successful in dealing with the issue of the presence of drugs and impairment it causes to drivers," he said.

Mr Donohoe also added that those using prescription drugs have "nothing to fear", as long as they take their medication as instructed by their doctor.

hnews@herald.ie

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