2 May, 2023
Drug driving on way to overtake drink driving
DRUG driving is becoming an increasing issue on the Tablelands as over 100 residents were found to be under the influence of drugs whilst behind the wheel last year.
In the Tablelands Patrol Group, 121 people were charged with drug driving offences last year compared to 157 drink drivers.
Inspector Jason Smith revealed the statistics at the Mareeba Chamber of Commerce business luncheon where locals attended to hear about community safety from Mareeba Mayor Angela Toppin, manager of the Tablelands and Cassowary Coast Youth Justice Service Centre Kathy Duck and Insp Smith about how they are managing community safety in their respective areas.
Juvenile crime, domestic and family violence and drink and drug driving were some of the main points brought up by the speakers.
While officers can administer thousands of roadside breath tests, drug tests require a specially trained officer and the tests themselves are few and have many requirements in terms of storage and use by dates.
For some police officers, the strike rate for drivers being charged with drug driving compared to tests administered is one in four.
Insp Smith was previously an officer-in-charge of a Road Policing Unit and spoke bluntly about his time with the unit and just how dangerous driving under the influence of any drugs or alcohol can be.
“There is no dignity in dying on our roads, it is a horrific death and the things I have seen, I hated seeing."
“The young people I have seen die because of people that are affected by drugs will see me without hardly any tolerance for drug taking," he said
“There are flowers on the side of the road outside Babinda where a 16-year-old and a 19-yer-old were killed by a driver who had taken drugs the previous evening – we had five fatal traffic accidents last year in the Mareeba area, alcohol and drugs play a factor in some of those.”
Lenore Wyatt spoke up towards the end of the luncheon about her own personal experience with the consequences of drug driving after she lost her youngest son, Cole, to a drug driver three years ago.
“My son was killed by a drug driver and the consequences of that is, the drug driver has a two-year suspended sentence and if he does
something wrong, he goes to jail for 10 months,” she said.
“You’re doing all this work but when they get to the courts, nothing is happening – it is devastating for the community and families.
“Sometimes the consequences do not fit the crime.”
Insp Smith agreed with Mrs Wyatt’s sentiment and said drug driving is a growing issue that police are constantly combating.
However, there could be a saving grace with the Police Powers Responsibilities Act which was introduced into parliament in February of this year and has not yet been passed.
The act would allow officer to divert people caught with drugs to services that could further assist them instead of just slapping them with a fine.
Insp Smith has implored residents lobby their local parliamen-tary representatives to push for the act to get passed.