DEATH rates on the country's roads are set to rise for the second successive year.
Motorists have been warned to exercise extreme caution over the festive season at the launch of the Christmas Road Safety Campaign.
RSA chief executive Moyagh Murdock warned that the number of people killed so far in 2014 stands at 179, up seven on the same date last year, and predicted that death rates will rise for the second year in a row.
"Drug driving could be as serious as drink driving," she said. "It's clearly an issue that could be on the increase and could be very damaging in terms of the improvements we have made in road safety in recent years.
"We have had a full cultural shift in attitudes to drink driving. It's very important the same attitude is taken in drug driving."
One-in-10 drivers killed on the roads in some parts of the country was under the influence of illegal drugs.
An analysis of blood samples taken following fatal collisions in Kildare between 1998 and 2009 showed that almost 10pc of victims had a positive toxicology result for drugs.
In addition, most blood samples sent for analysis to the Medical Bureau of Road Safety showed that drugs are often mixed with alcohol.
Gardai have new powers which will force motorists to undergo roadside impairment tests to check for drugs, while next year they will have new testing devices which allow saliva to be checked for cannabis and other narcotics.
In addition, they are also allowed direct doctors to take blood samples from unconscious drivers.
The motorist will be asked for consent to have the sample tested for drink and drugs after they awaken, and failure to agree is an offence.
Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan also revealed that the number of people caught speeding was up 11pc so far this year; the numbers caught not wearing a seatbelt rose by 6pc while mobile phone offences were up 16pc.
Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said he expected gardai to begin using roadside tests in the coming weeks.
RSA chairperson Liz O'Donnell said until now, the research is that many drug drivers see little risk of apprehension.
"They can actually delude themselves to be better drivers while under the influence of drugs and imagine themselves at low risk of collision. They also overestimate their driving competence," she said.
"Now with the additional powers for drug impairment testing, more drug drivers will be apprehended."