Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (18:13): My question is for the Minister for Road Safety and the TAC and relates to roadside drug testing.
A study published in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis last year called into question the reliability of the two drug-testing devices used by our police, the Securetec DrugWipe and the Dräger DrugTest 5000.
The study found that the devices frequently failed to detect high concentrations of THC, with false negative rates of 9 and 16 per cent respectively. They also recorded false positive rates of 5 and 10 per cent respectively.
My question for the minister is: if we would not tolerate a breathalyser that 16 per cent of the time missed that a driver was intoxicated or in 10 per cent of the time said they were over .05 when they were not, why would we tolerate it for drug testing?
In other words, of the planned 400 000 roadside drug tests over the next two years, why do we tolerate that 104 000 could return an incorrect result?
Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria—Minister for Roads, Minister for Road Safety and the TAC, Minister for Fishing and Boating) (18:14): I thank Ms Patten for her question and take the opportunity to note that it is the first question time of the year. Welcome, everybody, back. We are returning to some of the subjects that we were talking about throughout the course of last year.
Drug testing and drug taking as they relate to road safety are an incredibly important area, and it is, as Ms Patten implies through her question, essential that the community can have confidence in the systems that we use.
I can certainly assure the house that the system that we use is the very best system that is available, but I do recognise that there are some circumstances in which it is less accurate than we would like it to be, and that is something that we have acknowledged previously in the house.
A very large proportion of drivers and riders that are in control of vehicles have illegal drugs in their system when they die. Those that do not die but are seriously injured that are tested also have a very disturbingly high proportion of illegal drugs—and I make the point that it is illegal drugs as distinct from medicines—in their system. This is a growing area when we look at any analysis of our road trauma data.
I spent a lot of last year answering the question from lots of people in the community and indeed members in this house about: what is different this year; what is going on?
Whilst there are really many, many factors that do provide something of a response to that very difficult question, there are some categories that are consistently heading in the wrong direction, and drug taking and the presence of drugs in people’s system is certainly one of those, along with distractions, which is a growing area as well. Other areas, like drink driving, happily we are making continual progress on and have been now for some decades.
On Ms Patten’s specific interest about results in Victoria, I will take that part of the question on notice and seek some advice from Minister Neville, who is responsible for the enforcement parts of the delivery of our road safety policy, and provide some further detail for Ms Patten.
Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (18:16): Thank you, Minister, and I look forward to further advice on that. You mentioned that we are using the very best we have, and we would attest that the very best is actually incorrect in nearly 25 per cent of the cases and is only used in five countries around the world.
Given the ineffectiveness of this type of testing, will the minister instead introduce a testing regime that actually focuses on driver impairment rather than a residual presence of a substance?
Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria—Minister for Roads, Minister for Road Safety and the TAC, Minister for Fishing and Boating) (18:17): I thank Ms Patten for her supplementary question. What I can assure the house is that we are constantly looking at opportunities to improve our road safety response, and what represents the best possible regime for drug testing is an important part of that work.
As improved testing becomes available, we will continue to be involved in research at the forefront of those developments and to adapt and change as things improve.
The thing about alcohol testing and why it works so very well is that everybody knows that it is just around the corner, and so the thing with drug testing that we are making investments in is increasing the frequency of testing because the likelihood of being tested, we know, is a very, very powerful motivator in behaviour change. But I think that on— (Time expired)
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Questions without notice 5/2/20