Opinion, Warren Clark

Drug free driving is everyone’s business

Drug free driving

We all want a road transport industry where the families of drivers can be confident that their loved ones will make it home at the end of their working day.

Driving can be a risky business, and one in which your chances of avoiding injury or death often come down to the behaviour of others, who may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Social standards regarding the acceptability of driving under the influence of alcohol have changed significantly over the past decades, and yet, when it comes to drug driving, we are still catching up.

Take for example, new figures from police road enforcement activities over the 2024 easter holiday.

New South Wales Police reported conducting 232,092 random breath tests over this period, with 295 positive results. That means that one-in-850 people in control of a vehicle were found to be driving with more than the legal level of alcohol in their blood.

Contrast that with the results of 17,256 drug tests being conducted in that state over the same period, which returned 863 positive tests. That’s a ratio of one-in-20 road-users being on drugs.

These figures should concern anybody who operates a trucking business or makes a living behind the wheel of a heavy vehicle.

We seem to have a bigger problem with drug use by all road-users than we may have previously thought. The impact on our sector is obvious and can be tragic.

This point was well made by NSW Upper House independent Parliamentarian Rod Roberts on May 3 when he told 2GB radio host Ray Hadley that it was a “crisis”. Mr Roberts – a former police officer – said that while we can’t ease up on making drunk-driving socially unacceptable, nobody seems to be talking about drug impairment.

Data from the Australia Institute of Health and Welfare shows us that in 2023, 44 per cent of regular drug users participating in a drug and alcohol related reporting system (EDRS) drove a vehicle within three hours of taking drugs.

Let’s not pretend our industry doesn’t have its own issues. Yet, the vast majority of our sector are doing the right thing on our roads and deserve to feel safe behind the wheel. And rather than simply laying the blame for drug driving at the feet of our industry, it’s clear that more must be done to stop drug driving across the community.

At NatRoad, we’d like to see greater public awareness, including government driven campaigns, to begin to change society’s attitude towards drug driving, whether its illicit substances or everyday prescription medicine.

We hope, through these measures, alongside increased drug testing and sensible policy development, we can work towards bringing drug driving under control and make our roads safe for all.

That’s everyone’s business.

Warren Clark is CEO of the National Road Transport Association (NatRoad).

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