New Penalties Proposed for Drug Drivers

Why is the Government proposing to change drug driving penalties in South Australia?

The proposed changes are intended to reduce the incidence of drug driving and improve road safety for all road users.

Drug driving is one of a number of contributors to road deaths in South Australia.  Between 2011 and 2015, an average of 22% of drivers or riders killed on South Australian roads tested positive to THC (the active component in cannabis), methylamphetamine (speed, ice or crystal meth), MDMA (ecstasy) or a combination of these drugs.

Unlike alcohol, the number of drivers/riders killed in a road crash that tested positive to drugs has not decreased over the last five years with an average of 13 drivers/riders killed testing positive each year.

What changes are being proposed?

The Government is proposing the following changes:

  1. Introduce a three-month licence disqualification for a first drug driving offence that is expiated and increase the court-imposed disqualification period

    It is proposed that a driver who expiates a first drug driving offence would receive a three-month licence disqualification, in addition to the existing expiation fee of $587 and four demerit points.

    It is also proposed that the minimum licence disqualification for drivers who elect to be prosecuted and are convicted by the court for a first drug diving offence will be increased from three to six months.

  2. Increase the licence disqualification periods for repeat drug driving offences

    It is proposed to increase the minimum court-imposed licence disqualification periods for repeat drug driving offences as follows:

    • 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)

    It is also proposed to increase the penalties for refusal or failure to undertake a drug screening test, oral fluid analysis or blood test to ensure they remain a sufficient deterrent, as follows:

    • First offence – not less than 12 months (currently not less than six months)
    • Subsequent offence – not less than three years (currently not less than two years)

     

    CURRENT PENALTIES

    PROPOSED CHANGE

    Driving with prescribed drug in oral fluid or blood

    (section 47BA of the Road Traffic Act 1961)

    First
    offence

    ‘On the spot’ fine (currently $587); and
    4 demerit points
    OR
    Court penalty – a fine of not less than $900 and not more than $1,300; and
    4 demerit points; and
    Licence disqualification - not less than 3 months

    Current penalties plus Licence disqualification  - 3 months

    OR

    Current penalties with  increased Licence disqualification – not less than 6 months

    Second offence

    Court penalty – a fine of not less than $1,100 and not more than $1,600; and
    4 demerit points; and
    Licence disqualification - not less than six months

    Current penalties with Licence disqualification increased to not less than 12 months.

    Third
    offence

    Court penalty – a fine of not less than $1,500 and not more than $2,200; and
    4 demerit points; and
    Licence disqualification - not less than 12 months

    Current penalties plus Licence disqualification increased to not less than 2 years

    Subsequent offences

    Court penalty – a fine of not less than $1,500 and not more than $2,200; and
    4 demerit points; and
    Licence disqualification - not less than 2 years

    Current penalties plus Licence disqualification increased to not less than 3 years

    Refusal or failure to undertake a drug screening test, oral fluid analysis or blood test

    (section 47EAA of the Road Traffic Act 1961) 

    First
    offence

    Court penalty – a fine of not less than $900 and not more than $1,300; and
    6 demerit points; and
    Licence disqualification – not less than 6 months

    Current penalties plus Licence disqualification increased to not less than 12 months

    Subsequent offences

    Court penalty – a fine of not less than $1,500 and not more than $2,200; and
    6 demerit points; and
    Licence disqualification - not less than 2 years

    Current penalties plus Licence disqualification increased to not less than 3 years

    *Penalties do not include $60 Victims of Crime Levy

  3. Require any driver detected drug or drink driving (0.08 BAC and above) with a child aged under 16 years in the car to undergo a drug or alcohol dependency assessment

    A person drug or drink driving places a child passenger at an increased risk of being involved in a serious crash.  For this reason, the Government plans to introduce a new offence of drug or drink driving (0.08 BAC and above) with a child under the age of 16 present in the vehicle.

    Under the proposed new offence, drivers convicted of drug or drink driving (0.08 BAC and above) with a child in the vehicle would be required to undergo a drug or alcohol dependency assessment and must be assessed as non-dependent prior to regaining their licence.

    This dependency assessment would be in addition to the existing penalties (fine, licence disqualification period and demerit points) that apply for drug or drink driving.

    While the requirement to undertake a drug or alcohol dependency assessment is not new, dependency assessments are currently only required for repeat drug and drink driving offences.  For example, under the Motor Vehicles Act, drivers are required to undergo an alcohol or drug dependency assessment if they have, within the previous five years, expiated or been convicted of:

    • Three or more category 1 offences;
    • Two category 1 offences and one category 2 offence;
    • Two or more category 2 or category 3 drink driving offences; or
    • Two or more drug driving offences.

    As per existing requirements, the cost of the dependency assessment would be borne by the driver.

  4. Increase the penalty for driving unlicensed at the end of the disqualification period, if the driver has not completed the required dependency assessment or has been assessed as dependent on alcohol and drugs

Currently, the offence of driving unlicensed attracts an expiation fee of $454 or a maximum court penalty of $1,250.

Under this proposal, any motorist caught driving unlicensed following a drink or drug driving offence, where they did not undertake the required dependency assessment or drove after being found to be dependent on either alcohol or drugs, will face an increased penalty of $5000 or imprisonment for one year and disqualification from holding or obtaining a licence for not less than three years.

This is consistent with the approach taken for motorists caught driving unlicensed following disqualification for a serious drink driving offence and not having entered the Mandatory Alcohol Interlock Scheme.

When will the proposed changes be introduced?

A draft Bill will be prepared and the proposed changes considered by Parliament in 2017.

More information:

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