The New South Wales Government has announced a crack down on drug driving in the state, strengthening current legislation and boosting roadside drug testing.
According to Premier Gladys Berejiklian, 392 people lost their lives on NSW roads in 2017, with preliminary data indicating drug-affected drivers were a major contributing factor in 36 fatal accidents during that period - resulting in 42 fatalities.
"This summer has been a tragic time for too many on our roads,” Ms Berejiklian said.
"Many families and friends have been left with the heartache of losing loved ones while thousands will now live with lifelong injuries from crashes."
In an effort to curb the issue, the NSW Government announced the following measures:
- Doubling the number of roadside drug tests from 100,000 to 200,000 per year by 2020
- Adding cocaine to the list of drugs subject to roadside testing
- Increasing maximum penalties for offenders to two years imprisonment, fines of $5500 and/or licence disqualification for up to five years
- Providing for appropriate restrictions for motorists who drive after using other drugs, in consultation with health professionals
Premier Berejiklian said there are numerous prescription medications that can significantly impair one's driving ability.
"We will be seeking advice from police and road safety and medical experts on the appropriate restrictions to balance the need of people taking medication and the safety of the broader community on the road.," she said.
"We know that we need to continue to be vigilant to ensure we keep our community safe on our roads. That includes ongoing assessment about the most appropriate restrictions for repeat driving offenders."
Under the current legal framework, drug-affected drivers are subject to lower maximum penalties than the highest range drink drivers, though this week's announcement will level the field.
"Our data shows that drug affected drivers were a major contributing factor in 231 fatal crashes from 2012 to 2016, resulting in 250 deaths," said Melinda Pavey, NSW minister for roads.
"We know that speeding, drink driving, driver distraction, and fatigue also play a major role in deaths on our roads. We will be making further announcements in coming weeks to address these issues while continuing our investment in road infrastructure."