Health End of the road for drug driving

End of the road for drug driving

Drunk drivers are bad enough but how dangerous are drug users behind the wheel?

No one knew the answer for sure until researchers at Swinburne University of Technology teamed up with police and road authorities to find out.

Using a driving simulator and a group of volunteers they measured the effects on driving performance of drugs including cannabis and methamphetamine.

In findings that shocked no one, the study showed drugs severely impaired subjects’ ability to drive safely, undermining normal brain function and physical co-ordination.

The study meant there was finally definitive proof of what had been suspected all along.

Evidence of a causal connection between drug use and accidents enabled the passage of drug-driving legislation in the early 2000s, first in Victoria then in other parts of Australia and now around the world.

Inspector Martin Boorman of Victoria Police says Swinburne’s contribution was vital.

“The work Swinburne did with Victoria Police and VicRoads and the role it played in the introduction of the drug-driving enforcement program in Victoria was significant,” Inspector Boorman says.

“Swinburne played a strong role in providing the evidence that supported the introduction in Victoria of oral fluid testing of drivers at the roadside for the presence of illicit drugs.”

As a result of Swinburne’s work, saliva testing for illicit drugs is now common police practice. In 2016, 100,000 such tests were administered in Victoria and 5,554 people were charged with drug-driving offences.

Since 2004, deaths on Victoria’s roads have fallen by 25 per cent.

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