Why Isn’t the Government Testing for Prescription Drugs?
By Yavin Kumar @ Sydney Criminal Defence Lawyers
As mentioned by Greens MP David Shoebridge, the MDT program is an “unscientific” and “blunt” instrument that, at the present period, only tests for the presence of certain prohibited drugs. To a certain degree, he is correct – an MDT test will trigger a positive reading for an individual who may have had consumed cannabis a number of days of weeks ago, and yet will let a person who is under the influence of benzodiazepines (sleeping and anxiety tablets) slip smoothly under the radar.
The Present MDT scheme does not check for a driver’s level of impairment as a result of having taken a drug (whether prohibited or prescribed) – rather, it spots out the presence of one of the few drugs currently being tested in order to press a charge. This is a fundamental flaw in the purposes of an MDT – it is expected that much like breath testing there would be various ranges that are clearly defined to highlight certain levels of impairment.
Criminal Barrister Stephen Lawrence has commented on this issue, noting that Benzedrine, amongst other prescription drugs, are the greatest contributor to drug-related road deaths in New South Wales. Lawrence also confirmed the argument above by saying that “you can drive off your head on Valium and you will sail through a saliva test”, truly begging the question as to whether the MDT is really helping to reduce the number of drug-impaired motorists on our roads.
Of course, this is said notwithstanding the deterrent effect of MDT’s around New South Wales that are preventing people from driving whilst under the influence of drugs, for fear of being charged with an offence. The scheme should be able to target levels of impairment for illegal and prescription drug users.
The Government’s developments into the introduction of cocaine testing in RBT tests is a positive step forward in reducing the number of drug-impaired road users in the state. However, more research is needed in order to find ways to also incorporate testing of prescribed drugs, and the extent to which drugs are affecting a driver’s ability to keep themselves, as well as other road users, safe.
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