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90 positive tests from over 52,000 drug driving tests last year

Over 52,000 drug driving tests were carried out between April and December last year, it has emerged.

During that period 90 positive drug tests were returned, with 89 people arrested and one person passing the subsequent impairment test.

The provisional figures - which cover the period since the tests came into force - were released to Independent TD Tommy Broughan in response to a parliamentary question to the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan.

The reply stated: “While An Garda Síochána has been testing Irish drivers for drugs, with the assistance of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS), since 1999, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport commenced the drug driving provisions in the Road Traffic Act 2016 on 12 April 2017.

"One of the key measures in the legislation provides for Preliminary Drug Testing, which now enables Gardaí to test motorists at the roadside, whom they suspect of driving under the influence of drugs.

"The drug testing devices (Dräger DrugTest 5000) involve testing a sample of a driver’s oral fluid (saliva) for the presence of cannabis, cocaine, opiates (e.g. heroin, morphine) and benzodiazepines (e.g. valium). These devices are also be available in Garda stations.

It went on: "Of those 90 positive tests, I am informed that 89 persons were arrested, with one person having tested positive passing the subsequent impairment test.

"I am also advised by Garda authorities that records indicate that 52,395 Mandatory Intoxicant Testing checkpoints were conducted by An Garda Síochána following the commencement of the relevant legislation in April 2017 to end December 2017.

"It should be noted that the statistics provided are provisional, operational and subject to change and are valid as of 1 February 2018.”

Recating to the reply Deputy Broughan said he welcomed the recent strong statement by the Road Safety Authority.

"I have followed up with PQs on what base line figure the 10% increase in Traffic Corps will come from. I note that the figure of over 52,000 MITs is provisional and I will welcome further information on the breakdown by county and on the locations where the detection of drugs is most prevalent.

"Minister Ross seems to be maintaining radio silence on recent very worrying injury PQ replies that I forwarded him. It is now time for him to take his road safety portfolio seriously.”