Australian-first legislation aims to smoke out irresponsible drug drivers

Wednesday 08 September, 2021

Nation leading legislation that supports SAPOL with additional power to remove drug drivers from South Australian roads immediately after a positive roadside test will be introduced into SA Parliament today – the first of its kind in Australia.

The Road Traffic (Drug Driving and Careless or Dangerous Driving) Amendment Bill 2021 is another significant step – as part of a suite of measures already implemented by the Marshall Liberal Government since 2018 – towards increased road safety for the community.

Road Safety Minister Vincent Tarzia said the Bill will allow SAPOL to issue a 3-month instant loss of licence (ILOL) if a positive roadside drug screening test (DST) is returned.

More than 6,270 drivers were detected with drugs in their system in 2019/20. Tragically, 311 (23%) drivers and riders who lost their lives on our roads between 2015 – 2019 tested positive to drugs.

“This nation leading road safety measure takes drug drivers off the streets the second they test positive for illegal substances,” Minister Tarzia said.

“Drivers who take drugs and get behind the wheel have a death wish. It’s unacceptable, unfair and tragic that their selfish choices could end up cutting someone else’s life short.

“This legislation is crucial to strengthening road safety for every motorist and pedestrian.

“We cannot forget driving is a privilege, not a right. The Marshall Government is committed to ensuring every motorist makes it home safe.”

An ILOL for drug driving does not currently exist. If a driver returns a positive roadside DST, an oral fluid sample is collected and provided to Forensic Science SA for spectrometry analysis.

If the spectrometry analysis returns a positive result, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles advises the driver of their 3-month licence disqualification.

This means there is a 28-day delay between the initial DST before a loss of licence is enforced, leaving drug drivers free to endanger lives.

SA-BEST Attorney General spokesperson and MLC, Connie Bonaros, said she advocated strongly for the important reform.

“SA-BEST is pleased common sense has prevailed and welcomes the tough new measures being proposed by the State Government,” she said.

“We have worked closely with the government and SAPOL on this proposed new legislation in a collaborative effort to reduce the prevalence of drug drivers on our roads.

“It’s a no-brainer. The prevalence of drug drivers on our roads is totally unacceptable.

“Make no mistake – drug drivers on our roads are killing or seriously injuring innocent people.”

SAPOL will also have discretion to decide if the ILOL should be issued at the roadside, or whether circumstances require further testing.

The Bill will also make changes under the following categories:

Excessive Speed

Excessive speed occurs if a driver speeds by 45km/h or more over the speed limit.

Currently, a driver can only be issued ILOL for excessive speed if they have been issued an expiation notice for the offence. SAPOL cannot issue an ILOL if the driver is charged for the offence and is required to attend court.

The Bill will enable SAPOL to issue a 6-month ILOL for the offence of excessive speed regardless of whether the offence is expiated, or the driver is being charged.

The Bill extends the application of aggravating factors to the offence of excessive speed and expands the number of factors to mirror those that apply to the offence of extreme speed.

The Bill will also introduce a penalty of up to 2 years imprisonment if the offence is committed in aggravating circumstances, or if it’s a subsequent offence. Imprisonment is not currently available for an offence of excessive speed.

Reckless and Dangerous Driving

Currently, a roadside ILOL for reckless and dangerous driving is not able to be issued. The offence is not expiable, and offenders must be prosecuted. The maximum penalty is currently 2 years imprisonment.

The Bill enables SAPOL to issue a 12-month ILOL at the roadside for reckless and dangerous driving.

The Bill also amends the maximum penalties for reckless and dangerous driving to:

  • For a first offence — $5,000 or imprisonment for 2 years; or
  • For a subsequent offence — imprisonment for 3 years.

Driving Whilst Disqualified

Currently, the maximum penalties that apply for offenders who drive whilst disqualified are:

  • For a first offence — imprisonment for 6 months; or
  • For a subsequent offence — imprisonment for 2 years.

The Bill will strengthen the penalties for these offenders, who have already put other road users at risk and ignored disqualification.

The Bill increases the maximum penalties:

  • For a first offence — imprisonment for 12 months; or
  • For a subsequent offence — imprisonment for 3 years.