Warrnambool police concerned over 50 drug drivers in 40 days

ALARMING: Senior constable Peter Hunter is one of the officers from Warrnambool police highway patrol unit who has nabbed more than 50 drug drivers in 40 days.  Picture: Christine Ansorge.
ALARMING: Senior constable Peter Hunter is one of the officers from Warrnambool police highway patrol unit who has nabbed more than 50 drug drivers in 40 days. Picture: Christine Ansorge.

More than one motorist a day is being caught behind the wheel high on meth, cannabis or ecstasy.

Senior Constable Jarrod Chatfield, from Warrnambool police highway patrol unit, said officers had nabbed more than 50 drug drivers in 40 days. 

He said the number of drug drivers surpassed those driving under the influence of alcohol, with police recording 56 positive drug tests and 11 drink driving offences in the Warrnambool police service area between July 1 and August 10.

“Our unit is out there actively testing for drugs and it’s really an alarming result,” he said. “It’s the most we’ve seen here, it’s disappointing.”

Senior Constable Chatfield said the illegal behaviour was occurring at all times of the day. 

“It is completely varied from morning to afternoon and the evening. We test for meth, cannabis and MDMA and the most common is meth and cannabis,” he said.

Victoria Police road policing command Acting Assistant Commissioner Michael Grainger said people who failed to separate drugs from driving were putting their own lives and the lives of others at risk. He said since 2013, the number of deceased drivers or riders found to have drugs in their system was higher than those with alcohol.

“The tragedy is that as of (Friday afternoon), we have seen 122 people killed on our roads this year and we expect that potentially, another 100 people to die,” he said. “There may be a perception among some people in regional areas that you can take illicit drugs, jump behind the wheel of a car and get away with it.  This is certainly not the case. You can be tested anywhere, anytime.”

Senior Constable Chatfield said it was not unusual for drivers to say they had taken drugs a few days before driving and therefore weren’t impaired.

“It doesn’t matter how affected you think you are,” he said. “These drugs can stay in the system for days and the offence is driving with a drug in your system so if drugs are detected, then your body is affected and you will be charged.” 

Senior Constable Chatfield said the 56 drug drivers were first time and repeat offenders. He said first time offenders were issued with a fine and their license was suspended for six months. 

“Any subsequent or second offence for both drink or drug driving is a visit to a Magistrate in court,” he said. “All of the drivers are in the process of being charged with drive while exceeding prescribed concentration of a drug.”

In 2017, 35 of the 166 driver or riders that died on Victorian roads were found to have illicit drugs in their system.

The statistics have not yet been completed.