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Tough new penalties for drug drivers

CONNECT - Message from the Chief Executive

14 December 2016

Drug drivers will face an automatic loss of licence under tough new drug-driving laws to be introduced to Parliament. 

As part of the suite of measures to address the unacceptable incidence of drug driving, the State Government is proposing an automatic three-month licence disqualification for first time offenders along with increased disqualification periods for repeat offenders.

Operations undertaken by South Australia Police (SAPOL) so far this year indicate a disturbing number of people caught drug driving with children in the car.

The Government will introduce a new offence of drug-driving -- or high-level drink driving -- while a child under the age of 16 is present in the vehicle.

Under this proposed new offence, drivers found guilty of drug or high-level drink driving offences with a child in the vehicle will not have their licence re-issued until they are found to be non-dependent on drugs or alcohol.

Drivers caught unlicensed while suspended for drug driving would now also face increased penalties and the possibility of imprisonment.

Another component of this reform is to change the law to streamline the process of drug testing. This more efficient process will enable SAPOL to conduct more drug tests.

Proposed new penalties include:

  • A three-month licence disqualification for a first drug driving offence along with an increase to the court-imposed disqualification period.
  • An increased licence disqualification period for repeat drug driving offences:
    - Second offence – not less than 12 months (currently not less than six months)
    - Third offence – not less than two years (currently not less than one year)
    - Subsequent offence – not less than three years (currently not less than two years)
  • Any driver detected drug or drink driving (0.08 BAC and above) with a child aged under 16 in the car will need to undergo a drug or alcohol dependency assessment before a licence can be reissued. Under current rules, drivers with 0.08 BAC or above incur an automatic loss of licence for at least six months and, under the proposed new rules, drug drivers will lose their licence for at least three months.
  • Offenders who have lost their licence for drug driving and are caught driving unlicensed, will face penalties of up to $5000 or one year imprisonment and licence disqualification of no less than three years.

Between 2011 and 2015, 22% of drivers or riders killed on South Australian roads tested positive for THC (cannabis), methylamphetamine (speed, ice or crystal meth), MDMA (ecstasy), or a combination of these drugs. Unlike alcohol related deaths, this number is not decreasing.

New penalties will be paired with a continuing focus on enforcement of drug and drink driving laws by SAPOL and educational campaigns led by the Motor Accident Commission.

Click here for more information on the new penalties proposed for drug drivers.