A glitch in the current road traffic laws allows motorists to drive while under the influence of a controlled drug such as cocaine and cannabis.
In the past few months, a significant number of ‘drug’ driving convictions have been overturned on appeal in the Galway Circuit Appeals Court, frustrating Gardaí and members of the public concerned with road safety.
The current Road Traffic Act of 1961 – which has been amended over the years – effectively, allows motorists to drive while under the influence of illegal drugs.
Nowhere in the Act does it specify what levels of drugs are considered unacceptable or dangerous for a motorist. There are specific figures laid down in the Act for alcohol levels and once tested, the results are hard evidence in a court of law.
A number of ‘drug’ driving convictions are being overturned on appeal on the grounds that there wasn’t enough evidence of the motorist’s incapability to drive.
The convictions handed down in District Courts around Galway City and County have involved motorists who were found to be under the legal alcohol limit but on further testing were found to have traces of a controlled blood in their system.
As there are no set limits laid down for drugs, Gardaí have had to give evidence under Section 49 (1) of the Road Traffic Act (1961) that the motorist was incapable of driving.
However, this Garda evidence didn’t hold up in the higher court and were overturned.
Superintendent Tony O’Donnell in Clifden confirmed that he was aware of a number of such cases being overturned in the Circuit Appeals Court.
“I fully accept the decision of the court but the matter has been reported to the Garda Authority and we are seeking that it will be fully examined by the legislators,” he said.
Gardaí will no doubt be closely examining the proposed new Road Traffic Bill 2009 just published by the Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey, which aims to reduce blood alcohol concentration for drivers and mandatory testing of drivers involved in collisions.