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New roadside drug testing system launched at Christmas and New Year road safety appeal

New drug driving testing system (Securetec® Drugwipe 6s) more portable, quicker and tests for more drugs

  • Gardaí launch six week Christmas road safety enforcement campaign
  • 86 fatalities and 765* serious injuries in Christmas / New Year period over last five years/ last year
  • 146 road deaths in 2022 – 146 empty seats at the table on Christmas Day, up 27 on last year

A new preliminary roadside drug driving testing device, which can test for a greater range of drugs at the roadside was launched today at the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Gardai Síochána Christmas and New Year road safety appeal. The launch took place in University College Cork.

The new Securetec® Drugwipe 6s roadside drug testing device, which has been introduced by the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS) and rolled out to Gardaí across the country, works like an antigen test. It is more portable, faster at delivering results and can not only test for Cannabis, Cocaine, Benzodiazepines and Opiates, this device can, unlike its predecessor, test for Amphetamine and Methamphetamine.

The new preliminary drug testing device will be operational from today Thursday 1 December by An Garda Síochána, who have announced an intensive six-week road safety enforcement campaign across the country to Christmas and New Year.

For An Garda Síochána, one primary goal will be to reduce the number of people driving while under the influence of alcohol and illegal drugs, but they will be also targeting other road traffic offences such as mobile phone use, speeding and non-wearing of seatbelts.

Research by the RSA and An Garda Síochána revealed that over the last five years there were 86* fatalities and 765* serious injuries over the Christmas and New Year period.

Assistant Commissioner Paula Hilman said “I am pleased to be here today to launch An Garda Síochána’s Christmas and New Year’s road safety campaign which will run from today until 3rd January 2023. This information-led campaign will focus on locations and times where fatal and serious injury collisions have occurred over the last 12 years.

One of our primary goals is to reduce the number of people driving while under the influence of alcohol and illegal drugs. Today also marks the introduction of a new piece of equipment which will increase our capability to test drivers for the presence of illegal drugs. The DrugWipe 6S is now in use by Gardaí and the streamlined testing process will assist us in our goals of bringing offenders before the courts and making our roads a safer place.

The Assistant Commissioner added that “this year has seen 146 fatalities on our roads which is 146 empty seats at the table on Christmas Day. We all agree that number is far too high and we must work together to keep each other safe. In December 2021, 19 people died in road collisions, our thoughts and prayers are with their friends and family.

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Hildegarde Naughton said: “I welcome the introduction of this new drug testing device which is a key action to be delivered under Ireland’s Road Safety Strategy (Action 163) by the end of 2022. We know that the majority of drivers don’t drive under the influence of drugs but there are still some who persist in this dangerous behaviour. As we come into the festive season, remember that drugs and alcohol and driving do not mix under any circumstance. I’d like to remind drivers that all drink or drug driving penalties carry a disqualification period.”

Professor Denis Cusack, Director of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS), said: “Combinations of drugs and of drugs and alcohol can have a very serious effect on a person’s safe driving ability which may result in serious injuries or death. We need to address this combined alcohol-and-drugs-driving danger whilst also ensuring drivers continue taking prescribed medications for safe and healthy driving. This enhanced roadside drug testing system, which is to be used from today by An Garda Síóchána is extremely timely as we see a continued increase in drug detection in drivers. In 2016, the MBRS tested 1,113 samples for drugs other than alcohol. By 2021, that figure has increased to 4,321 - a near four-fold increase. While alcohol still remains the most frequently detected intoxicant in driving in Ireland, cannabis is the second most frequently found intoxicant and its detection in drivers is continuing to increase, with cocaine being the third most commonly found intoxicant drug detected.”

Professor Cusack added, “This newly introduced drug testing system (not unlike the Covid antigen test method) can test for Cannabis, Cocaine, Benzodiazepines, Opiates, and in addition Amphetamine and Methamphetamine, at the roadside. The advantages of the new system are that oral fluid collection is very rapid, the test time is reduced to 2-8 minutes, and the device is easily transported with no other device being required to read the drug results. This enhanced roadside drug testing system to be used by the Garda���� is timely as drug use in Irish society continues to increase and diversify which also translates into more dangerous intoxicated driving.”

Mr. Sam Waide, CEO, Road Safety Authority said: “I am urging all road users to act responsibly and to not drink or drug drive when using the roads throughout the Christmas and New Year period. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs doesn’t happen by accident, it happens by choice - those choices could have catastrophic consequences. I would appeal to all road users not to take risks on the road and to make safer choices however you use the road. Slow down, don’t drink or drug drive, wear your seatbelt and watch out for cyclists, pedestrians, motorcyclists and horse riders this festive season.”

Mr. Waide added, “if you are planning to head out socialising, remember to plan how you are going to get home in advance. Designate a driver or organise a taxi, hackney, minibus, or public transport. Be aware too of the danger of drink driving the morning after.”

Drivers are being reminded that the Coca Cola Designated driver campaign is running again this year. The scheme offers free soft drinks and water to anyone acting as a designated driver on a night out with friends or family.

146 people have died on the roads to date in 2022 – this represents an increase of 27 on the same day last year. Separately, 1,174 people were seriously injured on our roads this year up to 27 November 2022.


*Figures are provisional and subject to change. Caution is advised in interpreting 2022 serious injury numbers as there can be significant fluctuations in serious injury numbers until such a time as the validation of these records is completed by the RSA.

See a Frequently Asked Questions document on drug driving on the RSA website.

Download the Drugs and driving leaflet here

Drug Driving – General Facts

  • RSA research from 2013-2017 shows that 29% of drivers killed had a positive toxicology for drugs.
  • Over 2,550 drivers have been arrested to date in 2022 on suspicion of drug driving. That’s an average of around 54 drivers (54.3) arrested each week this year for driving under the influence of drugs.
  • It is an offence to drive under the influence of drugs, including prescribed drugs, where your driving is impaired to such an extent that you don’t have proper control of the vehicle. It is also an offence to drive under the influence of certain drugs, regardless of driving performance, above specified levels.

Drug Driving Penalties

  • If your oral fluid tests positive for Cannabis or Cocaine, you will be arrested and brought to the station where a blood specimen will be collected and sent to the MBRS for analysis.
  • If your oral fluid tests positive for Benzodiazepines, Opiates or Amphetamines/Methamphetamine and the Garda is of the opinion that you are impaired, you will be arrested and brought to the station where a blood specimen will be collected and sent to the MBRS for analysis.
  • If your oral fluid tests positive for Benzodiazepines or Opiates or Amphetamines/Methamphetamine and the Garda is of the opinion that you are not impaired, you are not committing an offence and can drive on.
  • All drug driving offence carry a period of disqualification. In terms of disqualification periods, for those convicted of the offence of being above the threshold Cannabis, Cocaine with no proof of impairment necessary by the Gardaí, the disqualification period is not less than 1 year for the first offence and not less than 2 years for the second or subsequent offence.
  • For the existing offence of drug driving while impaired, the penalty or disqualification period is a minimum of 4 years for a first offence and 6 years for a second or subsequent offence.
  • If taking prescription medication, drivers need to follow the advice of their prescribing doctor and dispensing pharmacist and must be aware of the level of potential impairment, even temporary, that the medication may cause. This is particularly important if the dosage or brand of that medication is altered. If drivers are in any doubt or have any concerns, speak to your doctor or pharmacist.