Drug-driving test changes strike to the heart of public safety: opinion

IT WAS a figure so scandalous, it almost beggared belief.

When Wagga Police launched its drug-driving blitzkrieg in mid-2015, few of us could have imagined how many “high drivers” were in our midst.

We soon found out.

In the initial months of testing, a staggering one-in-three drivers were detected with either “ice” or marijuana in their system.

On one particularly alarming weekend in November 2015, 31 of the 55 drivers tested came up positive.

Wagga Courthouse became a revolving door of druggies, with some addicts making regular appearances.

The regime, it appeared, was working in making our roads safer.

But there was a revolution afoot.

Civil libertarians, left-leaning politicians and some in the legal fraternity were soon playing the prejudice card, claiming the testing unfairly targeted repeat offenders and known drug users.

Police didn’t deny they “profiled” drivers before testing but rightly said this was the most effective way to weed out drug-affected motorists.

It now appears the soft-in-the-middle minority have won at the expense of public safety.

Wagga’s drug-driving hit rate has plummeted from one-in-three to about one-in-16 due to an apparent edict from the police hierarchy late last year to abandon targeted testing and replace it with stationary, random testing.

This effectively means there are more than five times the number of drivers with drugs in their system going undetected on local roads.

Local police are privately so frustrated with the new regime, they are rarely conducting tests, not bothering with a single test during the recent Easter road safety blitz.

When quizzed about the issue on Wednesday, the region’s highway patrol boss Bob Ryan deftly dodged the question about whether targeted testing had been canned, only saying police were “gravitating towards stationary testing”.

Regardless of how you dress it, this can only mean one thing – drug drivers are now more likely to slip the net. And this community, so often touched by road tragedy, has no appetite for that. When you take illicit drugs and climb behind the wheel, you forfeit your right to complain about “profiling”.

It’s high time those in power put public safety ahead of politics.

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