| 18.3°C Belfast

Number of drug-driving arrests soars by 106%

Testing shows that cannabis is the most prevalent drug detected.

Close

The Garda logo on a Garda vehicle in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Garda logo on a Garda vehicle in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Garda logo on a Garda vehicle in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

The number of people arrested for drug driving in the last six months has soared by 106% compared to last year, new figures show.

Garda enforcement figures show that 1,216 drug-driving arrests were made in the first six months of 2020 compared to 591 in the first half of 2019.

Drug testing shows that cannabis is the most prevalent drug detected followed by cocaine.

The Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS) said there was a 17% increase in the number of blood and urine specimens analysed in the first six months of 2020 compared to the same period last year.

It comes as the Road Safety Authority (RSA), gardai and MBRS aim to highlight the dangers of drink and drug driving ahead of the August Bank Holiday weekend.

The Bureau said it recorded a 6.5% increase in blood and urine specimens taken from drivers arrested from March 27 to June 29, compared to the same period in 2019, despite a 70% reduction in traffic because of Covid-19 restrictions.

Separately, an analysis by the RSA of coronial data from road user fatalities in 2013 to 2017 found that, where a toxicology result was available, a third of drivers killed tested positive for alcohol.

More than 9% of drivers killed had a positive toxicology for cocaine and 7.4% had a positive toxicology for cannabis.

Liz O’Donnell, chairwoman of RSA said: “Since the introduction of roadside screening devices for drugs in 2017 the gardai have been successful in detecting drivers under the influence of drugs.

“But the number of detections being made, and the number of specimens being analysed is also revealing the true extent of the problem. We have a big problem with drug driving in this country.

“My message for drivers is to understand that there is no hiding from drug driving any more.

“The gardai can and are detecting drug drivers in increasing numbers on our public roads.”

Professor Denis Cusack, from the Medical Bureau of Road Safety said: “There has been a noticeable increase in the number of specimens being analysed by the MBRS in 2020.

“In fact, in the first six months, we have seen the three highest weekly counts in the last 10 years for blood and urine specimens received.

“Of the tests undertaken in the laboratory in 2019 on specimens provided and tested for drugs, 74% were positive for at least one drug, with cannabis the most prevalent.

“What we are seeing in the blood and urine specimens we are analysing is that drivers are consuming a mix of intoxicants, both drugs and alcohol as well as different combinations of drugs, resulting in significant impairment effects on driver skills and the resulting dangers.”

Assistant commissioner Paula Hilman, roads policing and community engagement, An Garda Siochana added: “Our job is to protect communities from drink and drug drivers.

“It is totally unacceptable to drive if you have been drinking or taking drugs.

“This selfish action endangers the lives of all road users, so we are very concerned by the significant increase in the number of drug-driving arrests so far this year.”

PA