Why police don’t roadside test for cocaine
COCAINE users and their parents are too influential to be roadside tested, claims a Greens MP.
Currently, drivers across Australia are only tested for methylamphetamine (ice), ecstasy and cannabis in random roadside stings.
After a successful push to test drivers for cocaine in NSW later this year, David Shoebridge MP told news.com.au the excuse that it is too expensive to detect in other states is "bulls**t".
"The reason they don't test for cocaine, or haven't traditionally, is because people who use cocaine are much more influential," he said. "We're talking about people like bankers, lawyers and their children.
"Every police force across the country could have been testing for cocaine and the biggest killers on our roads, benzodiazepines and prescription medications, for years and for little or no extra cost.
"According to the National Drug Strategy Household Survey, cocaine use is at a 15-year high among Australians. So, you have to ask, why are they not testing for it?"
He claims the equipment police have been using across such as the Drager 5000, for second stage testing in NSW, has been capable of testing for eight dangerous drugs, including cocaine and benzodiazepines, for years.
According to its website, the Drager 5000 can test for drugs of abuse, such as amphetamines, designer amphetamines, opiates, cocaine and metabolites, benzodiazepines and cannabinoids.
However, Mr Shoebridge says there is a "policy decision" to pick models which can only detect ice, ecstasy and cannabis.
"They basically have to turn the cocaine setting off on the machine," he said. "They dumb them down to only test for three drugs.
"They would have to change the swabs on the machines to test for the additional drugs, but those swabs cost next to nothing."
He says Victoria Police use the Securetec drugwipe swab which, according to the product's website, can test for cannabis, cocaine, opiates, amphetamine, MDMA and ketamine.
The Liberal NSW Government announced last week that it will add cocaine to the list of drugs subject to roadside testing as part of a raft of tougher measures.
According to the National Drug Strategy Household Survey, NSW has the highest rate of cocaine use in Australia, with 3.4 per cent of survey participants saying they took the drug in the previous 12 months, above the national average of 2.5 per cent.
A spokeswoman for Victoria Police said its drug testing devices are "specifically manufactured to detect the class of illicit drugs we test for".
The force's Superintendent John Fitzpatrick told 3AW this morning that the choice to test for just methylamphetamine (ice), ecstasy and cannabis only was based on road trauma statistics.
"What the evidence says, is that over the last five years cocaine has been detected in less than one per cent of road trauma," he told the station. "We are the world leaders in drug testing."
However, he said the force would "look with interest" at how their counterparts in NSW get on with testing for cocaine later this year.
Mr Shoebridge said it is time for drivers to be tested for all drugs - whether they are legal or not.
"Try to put yourself in the shoes of somebody who has lost a loved one in a crash caused by someone who was high on drugs," he said.
"Would you care if the drug they took was legal or not? I'd say the majority of people don't care, it's about how that drug affects your ability to drive."
He added that it shouldn't be a simple pass or fail test either.
"We've got this ridiculous situation where people are losing their license because a trace amount of THC is being picked up in their system three days after they last had a joint," he said.
"They are being punished by rules which are arbitrary and grossly unfair. What we need for drugs is a system like the rightly-celebrated system we have for drinking - the roadside breath test.
"That way, we could determine who is fit to drive and who isn't because that is all people care about."
Leading criminal barrister Stephen Lawrence also called for other prescription medications to be tested for on roadside stings - adding that they are the greatest contributor to drug-related road deaths.
"You can drive off your head on Valium and you will sail through a saliva test," said Mr Lawrence.
"I don't think that a testing regime based on the mere presence of illicit drugs is problematic, because it deters people from making impossible judgments about when to drive following drug use."