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Drivers in Ireland to be drug tested after serious road crashes

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An additional 10,000 drug-wipe test kits were purchased to facilitate the new rules

Drivers are to face mandatory drug testing following serious road collisions in the Republic of Ireland from Friday.

Currently, people involved in such incidents are only subject to mandatory alcohol testing by officers from An Garda Síochána (the Irish police service).

Previously, gardaí (Irish police officers) had discretionary powers to test for drugs in people’s systems following road crashes.

The new measures are designed to raise road safety awareness and tackle a rise in road deaths in recent years.

Drug-wipe test kits

As part of the new testing programme, an additional 10,000 drug-wipe test kits were purchased earlier this year to facilitate the new rules, Irish broadcaster RTÉ News has said.

The devices test for a variety of substances and can take about eight minutes to complete, but under this order there will be a maximum waiting period of 30 minutes for roadside drug testing.

The measures are being introduced by the Irish Minister of Transport Jack Chambers.

Minister Chambers said that driving under the influence is one of the four main causes of road fatalities.

“Ensuring that enforcement by An Garda Síochána is underpinned by robust road traffic legislation is a priority for me and my department,” he said.

In April, a Policing Authority report looking at 2023 found concerns raised from some members of An Garda Síochána who following a roadside test and arrest, must have a doctor carry out a blood test.

This is to confirm the presence of drugs or alcohol and is required in order to press charges.

However, the Policing Authority found there is a “widespread challenge in accessing doctors in a timely manner” and therefore, suspects are released without charge after a number of hours without a test.

Increase in road deaths

Flowers at roadside

According to the  latest police data as of 29 May 2024, there have been 79 people killed in road traffic collisions in the Republic of Ireland so far this year

There has been an increase in road deaths in the country in recent years, with An Garda Síochána launching a number of road safety campaigns.

A total of 184 people were killed on roads in the Republic of Ireland in 2023, according to the country’s Road Safety Authority (RSA).

This was the highest number of fatalities in almost a decade, when 192 people lost their lives on the road in 2014.

It represents a 19% increase in road deaths compared to 2022.

According to the latest police data as of 29 May 2024, there have been 79 people killed in road traffic collisions in the Republic of Ireland so far this year.

That is an increase of eight people, compared the same period last year.

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland police say they are “in the process of introducing devices to indicate whether or not drivers are using vehicles whilst under the influence of illegal substances”.

That is a continuation of existing testing for alcohol, a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) spokesman said.

“The first stage will be a controlled testing phase across NI followed by a service-wide extension after project evaluation.”

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