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Anti Drug Driving

Anti Drug Driving

Campaign tackles drug driving and promotes awareness of new Preliminary Drug Testing

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) launched its fifth in a series of anti-drug driving awareness campaigns in association with An Garda Síochána on 12th April 2017. The campaign was introduced in co-operation with the *Medical Bureau for Road Safety in UCD and is supported by the departments of Transport, Tourism and Sport.The focus of the campaign is to raise awareness of Preliminary Drug Testing, which has been introduced by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, the 2016 Road Traffic Act.

Driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) has been a statutory offence in Ireland since the introduction of the Road Traffic Act 1961. The legal definition states that a person must not be impaired (though alcohol, drugs or any combination of both) while in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle. Since 13th April 2017, An Garda Síochána have the power to test the oral fluid of drivers for the presence of Cannabis, Cocaine, Opiates (e.g. Morphine) and Benzodiazepines (e.g. Valium) at the roadside or in a Garda station. This testing will be facilitated by a Drager 5000 drug tester device.

In Ireland, there is a twin-track approach to drug driving:  Firstly, it is against the law to drive under the influence of drugs (including prescribed drugs) where your driving is impaired to such an extent that you don’t have proper control of the vehicle. Secondly, it is against the law to drive under the influence of certain drugs (regardless of driving performance) above specified levels. There are currently three drugs tested for– cannabis, cocaine and heroin.  If you are found to have any of these drugs above the specified limits, you can be prosecuted for drug driving even if your driving is not impaired.

Driving under the influence of drugs is a problem in Ireland. A study from the Coroners District in Kildare during 1998 and 2009 found that almost one in ten drivers killed had a positive toxicology for a drug or drugs. Furthermore, the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS) found that out of the 9,734 specimens of blood and urine tested for the presence of a drug or drugs between the years 2009-2015, 6,232 or 64%, tested positive.

Drivers with medical conditions should continue to take their prescribed medications in accordance with healthcare advice and medical fitness-to-drive guidelines. If you are taking prescription or over-the-counter medicines under the advice of your doctor or pharmacist, and so long as those medicines don’t impair your driving, you have nothing to be concerned about. If you are in any doubt, speak to your doctor or pharmacist about your concerns.

A statutory medical exemption certificate is allowed for in the law for people who have been prescribed medicinal cannabinoids (medicinal marijuana). If this applies to you, you should carry the medical certificate with you while driving.

To support the introduction of Preliminary Drug Testing on the 13th April, the RSA will run a comprehensive online media campaign to raise awareness of the new drug-testing powers being given to An Garda Síochána. This campaign will primarily feature short videos which demonstrate how the drug tests will be administered on the road side and the consequences of these tests should a driver be caught driving under the influence of drugs. This awareness campaign will run on social media, radio and digital platforms.

See here a link to each of the videos;

The RSA is also targeting a campaign aimed at allaying the concerns of those taking medicines and driving (over the counter and prescription drugs). Specifically the RSA is putting information leaflets into pharmacies and GP surgeries nationwide. A short video has also been developed with Professor Denis Cusack from the Medical Bureau of Road Safety in UCD.

For more information on the introduction of Preliminary Drug Testing, see our Frequently Asked Questions document here.

Please see here also for a list of possible Scenarios which can arise during road traffic law enforcement for driving under the influence of drugs.

*The Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS) is the independent forensic body responsible for chemical testing of intoxicants under the Road Traffic Acts and also for the approval, supply and testing of apparatus for determining the presence or concentration of such intoxicants.


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MBRS figures for 2016 found;

  • of the 3,020 specimens of blood and urine that it received in 2016
  • 24% confirmed positive for drugs other than alcohol
  • of these, 91% were specimens from male drivers, most of whom were in the 17-44 year age range
  • Cannabis was the most prevalent drug detected, followed by benzodiazepines

2010 Survey results can be found here