Figures released by the Gardai have shown that 1,216 drug driving arrests were made in the first six months of 2020, compared to 591 in the first half of the previous year. Samples collected at the time of each arrest revealed that cannabis was the most prevalent drug detected in drivers, followed by cocaine.
The figures represent a 106 per cent increase in drug driving arrests, reports the Irish Mirror, despite there being a significant reduction in traffic due to lockdown. They coincide with data released from The Medical Bureau of Road Safety which also showed a 17 per cent increase in the number of blood and urine samples analysed in the first six months of 2020, compared with that of 2019.
The news comes as AlphaBiolabs reported in early August that one in four people tested for drugs, as part of a workplace testing program, returned a positive result. 26 per cent of employees tested between May and July had traces of drugs in their system.
The results showed that more than one illicit drug had been used in 16.7 per cent of cases. Cannabis was the most commonly-used illegal substance, followed by cocaine. They were detected in 39.7 percent and 17.2 per cent of positive tests respectively. Ecstasy was also found in 3.4 per cent of positive samples.
Speaking to the Irish Mirror, Hildegarde Naughton, Minister of State at the Department of Transport said there was ‘a cohort of drivers that engage in risky behaviour.’
She added that, ‘the incidence of drink and drug driving during the COVID-19 lockdown period, when traffic volumes were at an all-time low demonstrates the blatant disregard that some drivers have for the law and road safety.’
A spokesperson for the Road Safety Authority, Liz O’Donnell, said that since the introduction of roadside screening devices for drugs in 2017, the Gardai had been successful in detecting drivers under the influence of drugs.
She said the number of detections being made, and the number of specimens being analysed is revealing the true extent of the problem, ‘we have a big problem with drug driving in this country’.
‘My message for drivers is to understand that there is no hiding from drug driving anymore. The gardai can and are detecting drug drivers in increasing numbers on our public roads.’
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