Drug drivers on notice – risk it and lose your licence… or your life

Tuesday 30 November, 2021

The Marshall Liberal Government has passed Australian-first legislation through Parliament today which boosts road safety by ensuring dangerous drivers are instantly stripped of their licence following a positive roadside drug test result.

The Road Traffic (Drug Driving and Careless or Dangerous Driving) Amendment Bill 2021 passed through the Legislative Council.

Road Safety Minister Vincent Tarzia said the Marshall Liberal Government’s crucial Bill is part of a suite of measures that protect South Australian road users and prevent further lives lost.

“The Marshall Government is proud to see this legislation pass quickly as we continue work to improve road safety for all South Australians," Minister Tarzia said.

“Drug drivers have no place on our roads and this Bill has shut down a dangerous loophole that afforded some irresponsible motorists with the opportunity to continue driving despite a positive drug test.

“We make no apologies for this crackdown on selfish drivers who put innocent lives at risk.”

Tragically 15% (14) of the lives lost this year have be attributed to drug driving.

SA-BEST Attorney General spokesperson and MLC, Connie Bonaros, said: “Make no mistake – these new laws will save innocent lives.”

“They will ensure the increasing number of dangerous and irresponsible drug drivers with a blatant disregard for our road rules are taken off our roads more quickly and efficiently,” Ms Bonaros said.

“SA-BEST worked closely with the government and SAPOL on these tough new measures and we welcome their introduction. It is obvious from SAPOL road statistics that current drug driving laws serve as little deterrent to motorists who choose to drive while under the influence of drugs.

“I hope these tough new laws go a long way to addressing that disturbing trend – innocent lives are depending on it.”

Once the new laws are in effect, SAPOL will have the power to issue a 3-month instant loss of licence (ILOL) if a positive roadside drug screening test (DST) is returned.

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.

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

Other changes that come into effect in the coming months fall 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
  • a subsequent offence — imprisonment for 3 years.