Will drug testing be as successful as alcohol testing in NSW?

Will drug testing in NSW be as successful as alcohol testing has been in reducing the road toll.

We’ve highlighted in our posts that the drive to decrease the road toll in the last 40 years with the use of alcohol testing and promoting the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol has by many measures been very successful. This has been seen in NSW and right across the nation. So, the question is, will drug testing in NSW and messaging about the dangers of drug driving eventually reap the same rewards?

Alcohol testing in NSW

Driving on NSW’s roads in the 1960 and 1970s must have been darn dangerous!

When legislation was passed to introduce alcohol testing on NSW roads in 1968, police then had the power to breath test anyone who had an accident or broke a road rule. According to the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), in one eight hour period 41 out of 46 drivers who took an alcohol test were found to be over the legal limit. And the legal limit at that stage was 0.08!

In 1980, the limit was dropped to 0.05 blood alcohol level. In 1982, random alcohol testing on NSW’s roads began.

According to a SMH article, the death on NSW’s roads in 1981 was 1291; in 2001 it was 524. Of course, not all of this was due to alcohol testing. Other reforms were also taking place and cars and roads were becoming somewhat safer due to technology and engineering. However, back in 2002 the Road & Traffic Authority estimated that 4367 lives were saved in the first 20 years of random breath testing, solely because of alcohol testing.

Was random alcohol testing popular when introduced? Heck, no. The SMH article highlighted that the liquor industry and the Australian Hotels Association were dead against it. Go figure! So were civil libertarians, the Australian Law Reform Commission and even Queensland Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, a teetotaller weighed in, saying the idea stank.

Drug testing in NSW

Skip ahead around 40 years since the introduction of alcohol testing, and drug testing in NSW was being introduced. Has it been welcomed by everyone? Has it been without controversy? Like the alcohol testing, the answer is a firm no. But it’s not going to go away. In fact, in 2020 drug testing on NSW’s roads will go to a new level, with around 200,000 tests to be conducted.

But like alcohol testing, many would argue that drug testing in NSW is needed. The statistics back these people up.

According to Transport for NSW Centre for Road Safety, over the six financial years from 2010/11 to 2015/16, there were 303 fatal crashes where one vehicle operator had an illicit drug in their system. These crashes resulted in 334 people dying on NSW’s roads, representing at least 16 per cent of all fatalities. More-so, there has been an increasing trend in fatal crashes involving illicit drugs in recent years, with the 2015/16 year resulting in 80 fatalities where one vehicle operator had an illicit drug in their system, representing at least 20 per cent of all fatalities.

Drug testing in NSW on our roads… Get used to it!

NOTE: Integrity Sampling has offices in NSW in Bourke, Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Goulburn, Griffith, Lismore, Newcastle, Port Macquarie, Sydney, Tamworth, Wagga Wagga and Wollongong. Give us a call on 1300 SALIVA to discuss your drug and alcohol management needs.


Will drug testing in NSW be as successful as alcohol testing has been in reducing the road toll. Credit Highway Patrol Images https://bit.ly/2tbniLJ

By Michael

Michael is the founder of Integrity Sampling and is responsible for overseeing all national operations. He is based at Integrity Sampling's head office in Melbourne and is also responsible for the co-ordination of drug and alcohol testing within Victoria, assisting in the implementation of drug and alcohol (fit for work) policies and the presentation of drug and alcohol education and awareness programs. You can connect with Michael Wheeldon on LinkedIn

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