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Drug driving a major issue for NSW authorities

Article PhotoOver the past few years, NSW authorities have had a major focus on drink driving. However, a new threat has emerged that will need serious attention in the years ahead - drug driving.

It is important to remember that your CTP insurance will cover you if you were in an incident with a drug driver, but the circumstances are less clear if you are the party in the wrong.

Drug driving involves motorists driving after taking one of the following substances: cannabis, methamphetamine, ecstasy, cocaine or an overdose of individual prescription medicines. However, many drivers have a combination of two or more in their system.

Authorities are encountering more drivers who are under the influence and are a danger to other road users.

2014 - worse than 2013

NSW police has recently released statistics that highlight how much this problem has increased over the last 12 months.

Since the beginning of the year, NSW police have tested 29,500 drivers for drugs. Of that number, 1,160 have returned positive results. Compare this to 2013 when 34,280 drivers were tested yet just 729 were positive.

In addition, more than one in 10 (11 per cent) road fatalities in NSW involved a motorist or motorcyclist who had taken illegal drugs with 40 per cent of these drivers under the age of 30.

NSW Police Traffic and Highway Patrol, Acting Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith, explained that these figures were "alarming" and "sad".

"One in 25 drivers caught on drugs is appalling and to have nearly 700 of these drivers test positive to having multiple drugs in their system, should serve as a shock to the community," he said.

"Those that use drugs and then drive need to understand, we can be anywhere, anytime, right across NSW conducting Random Drug Testing operations."

With a number of weeks until the end of 2014, there is the potential these figures will climb even higher. Mr Smith said that this was a concern given the busy Christmas and New Year holiday period ahead.

What are the effects of driving under the influence of drugs?

Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Stuart Ayres, understands that many drivers don't actually know the risks associated with drug driving. Depending on the type and quantity of drug, the quality of driving decreases significantly.

According to Drugs Info, cannabis for example, can cause reduced coordination, confusion, slower reaction times and time and space perception problems. For a 'harder' drug such as ecstasy, the issues can include increased risk taking, over confidence, aggressive and dangerous driving and drowsiness.

These symptoms can also vary based on your age, weight and sex.

In August, Transport for NSW presented a drug driving fact sheet. This presented some interesting facts and in relation to mixed drugs or combining them with alcohol and driving.

Based on the statistics, you are around 32 times more likely to be killed in an accident when drugs and alcohol are involved.

What are NSW police doing to combat this issue?

Minister for Roads and Freight Duncan Gay explained in a November 19 media statement that the government is committed to reducing the drug driving rate. He said that there is a number of initiatives now designed to stop this behaviour.

"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," he stated.

"I've asked the Centre for Road Safety to develop a package of works to target this dangerous behaviour and make our roads safer."

Over the summer, there will be a number of campaigns and crackdowns on drug driving. There are also calls to increase the penalties so more motorists are taken off the road as a result of their behaviour.