Death continues to stalk our roads

DRUG-driving is more prevalent than drink-driving in the North East and police say drivers need to be better educated about the risks.

One in 11 drivers tested are driving on drugs in the Wodonga area while one in 41 drivers are testing positive in Wangaratta.

Reflecting on fatal and serious injury collisions in the past 12 months police say of all the factors that cause crashes, they are seeing a rise in drug-driving.

“It’s on an upwards trend,” Sgt Michael Connors, of Wang­aratta highway patrol, said.

“The trend from drink- driving to drug-driving has turned around. There’s more drug-driving than drink-driving.”

Sgt Cameron Roberts, of Wodonga highway patrol, said drugs were a factor in half of the fatal crashes in the Wodonga area last year.

“One was a very high reading of cannabis and also alcohol,” he said.

The rise in drug-driving has not gone unnoticed.

The Transport and Accident Commission began its drug-driving campaign in 2004, the same year roadside drug testing was introduced.

Its statistics found in 2010 that 37 per cent of drivers and motorcyclists had drugs in their system.

A National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre report found 82 per cent of drug drivers admitted to using ecstasy, 64 per cent methamphetamine and 57 per cent cannabis.

Nearly half the people who admitted drug-driving believe they were not

impaired.

Here was the problem, Sgt Connors said, particularly in the age groups of 18-28 where the most drug-drivers are being detected.

“The TAC campaigns are adequate but it appears younger people aren’t paying any attention,” he said.

Sgt Connors said drug-driving needed the same treatment as the 23-year campaign to make drink-driving unacceptable.

And it needed to happen through the licensing pro­cesses, schools and media.

Sgt Connors said those caught drug-driving were receiving more education than those who weren’t caught.

“Everyone who goes to court for drug-and drink-driving has to do a course.

“Those who aren’t being detected are missing out on the education,” he said.

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