Drug driving

ACT Policing and the Justice and Community Safety Directorate have launched a new road safety campaign targeting drug driving. Alcohol and drug impaired drivers pose one of the highest risks on our roads.  Removing these drivers from ACT roads reduces the potential for serious injury or fatal collisions.

ACT Policing are actively drug testing drivers in the ACT for the presence of drugs including cannabis (THC), methylamphetamine, and ecstasy. 

Driving under the influence of drugs is dangerous.  ANY trace of these illegal drugs in your system while driving is against the law.

How drugs affect your driving ability

There is a range of evidence linking certain illegal and prescription drugs to elevated collision risk.  Many drugs can affect the ability to drive safely.  This includes illegal drugs, as well as legal drugs such as alcohol and medicines (prescribed and over the counter). 

Drug use can affect a drivers ability to drive safely by:

  • slowing down reaction time
  • causing a distorted view of time and distance
  • reducing a person’s ability to identify driving hazards.

Drugs also stimulate the nervous system and can lead to a reduced attention span, and the sudden onset of fatigue as the stimulant effects wear off. 

It is important to remember that different drugs can affect people in different ways.

Drug driving tests

The testing only relates to the ‘presence’ of a drug in your system, there is no legal limit. Random Roadside Drug Testing (RRDT) is a three step process before the driver could be charged with an offence. The first two steps are undertaken by police on the roadside.

First an oral test is used, followed immediately by a ‘preliminary oral fluid analysis’ using an instrument called a Drug Detection System (DDS).

If you are unable to provide a saliva swab, a blood test may be used. A third ‘confirmative’ positive laboratory test is required before a driver is charged; this is conducted by the ACT Government Analytical Laboratory (ACTGAL).

As well as randomly screening drivers for the presence of drugs, ACT laws allow for blood tests for the presence of drugs to be carried out, including following a traffic collision.

Police officers who are trained and authorised to operate the testing devices can conduct random roadside drug testing of drivers.

Law enforcement

Drugs can stay in your system long after you take them, so you could test positive hours or even days after consumption. 

Drug driving is a strict liability offence. This means ACT Policing only have to show that you tested positive for drugs while you were driving in order for you to go to court.

If you fail a road side drug test you will be charged with an offence and be required to appear in an ACT court to answer the charge.  Serious penalties can apply to drug driving offences including:

  • heavy fines
  • loss of licence
  • imprisonment

You may also get a criminal record. Along with legal penalties you also run the risk of:

  • injury or death to yourself or someone else
  • damage to your vehicle and other property
  • loss of insurance cover because insurance companies may not pay for any damage or injury if you are convicted for drug driving.

Penalties for drug driving

A first offence can lead to a fine of up to $1500. For repeat offenders; a fine of up to $3750, three months imprisonment, or both can be imposed by the court.

An offending driver can also face a loss of their driver’s license for a period specified by the court.

Support Services

If you or someone you know is concerned about drugs or alcohol there are several treatment, support and information programs available in the ACT.

24/7 information and support is available through ACT Health’s Alcohol and Drug Services Intake Line – 02 6207 9977 (ask for the Alcohol and Drug Services when calling).

The 24 Hour Intake Line is staffed by specialist Alcohol and Drug workers and provides:

  • information on alcohol and other drugs and associated issues
  • advice on assisting people who may have alcohol and other drug issues
  • support to people affected directly or indirectly by alcohol and drug use.

For a full list of alcohol and drug programs visit the ACT Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Association ACT online directory.