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Motorists putting safety of others at risk

Road safety is an issue requiring constant focus. From time to time, the NSW government collaborates with the Police to reveal information highlighting what needs to be done to increase safety.

This time this problem is the increasing number of accidents and fatalities involving drivers under the influence of illicit drugs. With the manufacture of drugs like methamphetamine, speed and ecstasy, the problem is becoming more widespread.

According to NSW government data, 11 per cent of fatalities last year involved a driver or motorcyclist who had drugs in their system. This is the first time that this type of information has been released to the general public.

Minister for Roads and Freight Duncan Gay explained that the police have had to take a more heavy-handed approach to the problem as the statistics now demand tougher methods.

"We know that in the last four years, at least 166 people died on our roads in crashes involving motorists with at least one of three illicit drugs, cannabis, speed or ecstasy in their system," he said.

"We will be stepping up the fight to remove this behaviour from our roads and help save the lives of innocent motorists endangered by the idiotic actions of drug drivers."

What is the police response?

Educational campaigns could be key to curbing the increasing number of motorists behind the wheel after using illicit drugs. However, to target the right demographics and locations, NSW police depend on information provided by the government.

For example, from four years of data, the police know 40 per cent of drug driving offences and fatal crashes involved a drug driver under the age of 30. As well as this, police are confident of getting on top of the issue based on the continued good work educating drivers in relation to drink driving over the last 30 years.

In fact, NSW drink driving fatalities have cut in half from 30 per cent in 1980 to 15 per cent last year.

Another preventive measure is the continual advancements in the effectiveness of drug testing technologies.

Minister for Police and Emergency Services Stuart Ayres described what the new Drager DrugTestĀ® 5000 is capable of.

"The machine has more sensitive detection thresholds and will reduce the proportion of drivers who are screened as negative at the roadside," he said.

The running costs of machines such as the Drager DrugTestĀ® 5000 are made possible by red light and speed camera fines.

More safety initiatives

According to Transport for NSW data, any safety campaigns are welcome - particularly with the road toll so high at present. More than 200 people have lost their lives on state roads in 2014 - an increase of 4 per cent on this time last year.

Statistics for August make for even worse reading. So far this month 13 people have died, which is an 86 per cent increase on 12 months ago.

Mr Gay confirmed that the Community Road Safety Fund is important for improving safety standards across the state.

"We rolled out the second phase of school flashing lights at the end of July, which is a key part of this funding; the rollout of this drug detection equipment is another important investment," he said.

"Safety on our roads is our number one priority and investing in reducing the incidents of drug driving and fatalities on our roads is a top priority for the NSW Government and our local communities."