A legal loophole that lets some drug drivers who kill or cause serious injury evade the full force of the law will be closed under legislation introduced to Parliament by the Andrews Labor Government.
The amendment to the Road Safety Act will give police the power to compel all drivers involved in crashes where someone is seriously injured or killed to have their blood tested for drugs.
About 100 drivers a year currently don’t have their blood tested because they were not injured in a crash in which they were involved.
They don’t get tested because it is impractical for police to both attend to any injured people and conduct a complex roadside impairment test in order to give them grounds to order a blood analysis.
Police officers attending a serious crash scene must attend to the injured people as a priority, arrange for transfer to hospital, and ensure the scene is left undisturbed for evidence gathering.
Yet, if the same driver were injured and taken to hospital they would be subject to a mandatory blood test that could measure if any drugs are in their system.
The tightening of the law comes after a case in February 2014 where two people were hit by a ute running a red light. One person died, the other was seriously injured. The driver was tested with a swab at the scene and found to have ice and amphetamines in his system. Police also found 50g of ice in his car.
If the driver had been injured he would have been taken to hospital, where a mandatory blood sample would have been taken to measure the quantity of drugs in his system.
But the driver was uninjured and refused to take a blood test – as is his legal right.
As a result, police were unable to collect the evidence that might have shown if the amount of drugs in his system contributed to his driving and warranted a higher charge of culpable driving, which has a maximum penalty of 20 years.
The driver was therefore charged with the much lesser charge of dangerous driving.
The decision to compel a blood test is at the discretion of police and intended to be used when they suspect a driver is impaired by drugs yet has not themselves been injured.
Quotes attributable to the Minister for Police Wade Noonan
“Drivers who kill or seriously injure someone while on drugs should be held fully accountable for their actions.”
“This new law will help police do their jobs by giving them greater powers to keep our roads safe from drivers on drugs.”
“The Andrews Labor Government has kept its promise to plug this gap that was stopping police from charging drug drivers with more serious offences.”
Reviewed 19 August 2020