The NSW Government will crack down on drug drivers by strengthening laws and boosting roadside drug testing, Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced today.
Ms Berejiklian said it had become clear that more action was needed to boost road safety after 392 people lost their lives on NSW roads in 2017. Preliminary data shows that drug affected drivers were a major contributing factor in 36 fatal accidents in the first half of 2017, resulting in 42 deaths.
“This summer has been a tragic time for too many on our roads,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“Many families and friends have been left with the heartache of losing loved ones while thousands will now live with lifelong injuries from crashes.”
The measures announced today include:
- Doubling the number of roadside drug tests from 100,000 a year to 200,000 a year by 2020;
- Adding cocaine to the list of drugs subject to roadside testing;
- Increasing maximum penalties for drug drivers to two years imprisonment, fines of $5,500 and/or licence disqualification for up to five years, equivalent to high range drink driving; and
- Providing for appropriate restrictions on people who drive after using other drugs, in consultation with health experts.
“There are prescription drugs that may significantly impair the performance of drivers,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“We need to ensure that drivers are not impaired and a risk to others on the road. We will be seeking advice from police and road safety and medical experts on the appropriate restrictions to balance the need of people taking medication and the safety of the broader community on the road.
“We know that we need to continue to be vigilant to ensure we keep our community safe on our roads. That includes ongoing assessment about the most appropriate restrictions for repeat driving offenders.”
Currently, drivers caught driving under the influence of drugs are subject to lower maximum penalties than the highest range drink drivers. The NSW Government will be changing this so that the maximum penalties for driving under the influence of drugs are consistent with the highest range drink driving offences.
Minister for Roads Melinda Pavey said: “Driving under the influence of drugs has emerged as a significant factor in our road toll, along with speeding and fatigue.
“Our data shows that drug affected drivers were a major contributing factor in 231 fatal crashes from 2012 to 2016, resulting in 250 deaths.
“We know that speeding, drink driving, driver distraction, and fatigue also play a major role in deaths on our roads. We will be making further announcements in coming weeks to address these issues while continuing our investment in road infrastructure.”
Ms Berejiklian said: “Last year we launched a number of road safety education campaigns, including Your Last Text and Be Truck Aware. But given the recent spike in road deaths, I have asked Police and road safety experts to review whether we need to do more in terms of public awareness and education.”
The measures announced today come on top of NSW Government action to more than double high visibility policing on our roads, introduce half price licences for safe drivers and establish the Community Road Safety Fund into which all speed camera revenue is directed to be invested on road safety initiatives.