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Numbers tell real story

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BEFORE writing the column for the March 16 issue of Big Rigs calling for uniform and more frequent drug testing for heavy vehicle drivers as well as for penalties that reflect both the majority of industry and the public's expectations, I had contacted my local state member's office to try to obtain current statistics for roadside random drug testing results.

Normally internet searches would produce a document or a news item that would contain the results as either a government document or as a news item, but this was to no avail.

Plenty of pages about testing procedures and information for road users but no actual results of the number of tests conducted.

The only source of information for anyone to gain a perception of drug use in road transport is through stories run by programs such as A Current Affair, newspapers or by those who wish to make headlines for themselves by making unsubstantiated "guesstimates" of widespread use of illicit substances to help promote their own agendas.

Well, the results are in for random roadside drug testing in NSW and I would like to thank Geoff Provest MP, the Parliamentary Secretary for Police and Emergency Services, as well as the staff in the office of the Member for Clarence, Chris Gulaptis MP, for both providing and obtaining the most recent information for me.

In the period between June 2011 and July 2012, NSW police conducted 28,046 roadside drug tests in total, of which 24,608 were conducted on the drivers of light vehicles and 514 or 2.09% indicated a positive result on the second test.

So what are the results for heavy vehicle drivers?

The envelope, please.

  •  3438 roadside drug tests were carried out on the drivers of heavy vehicles (4.5 tonnes or greater).
  •  53 or 1.54% of the total number of heavy drivers tested indicated positive to drugs on the second test.
  •  1.54%, such a low rate of positive second tests, surprised even me.

For an industry supposedly in the grip of a drug epidemic and out of control, the numbers tell a different story with heavy vehicle drivers returning a better result than the general public that judges us so harshly.

There will be some who may argue these numbers may be lower than they should be through the use of "communication" networks to inform drivers of where the drug buses are set up and quite possibly so, but this would also be offset by the fact authorities know who they wish to target and will prioritise those who have a known issue with compliance to be tested, which in theory could return a higher number of positive results than the industry average.

But in a world obsessed with statistics and numbers these results prove what the industry and even some in enforcement have being saying for a long time; that the majority of heavy vehicle drivers are doing the right thing, that we are obeying the law and that it is a small minority who give the rest of us a bad name.

This is where the problem lies. The publicity those who disregard safety and the law bring to the industry is greatly disproportionate to their actual numbers. Even if we double the number of positive test results for heavy vehicle drivers it would still be 3%, making the remaining 97% of us in the eyes of the public to be reckless drug users. Unfortunately it is that small percentage who appear to have an increased risk of being involved in serious accidents or high profile enforcement incidents.

These are good results but we as an industry cannot rest on our laurels, both industry and enforcement should continue their efforts to drive out drug use.

Hopefully those who continue to not only break the law but continue to put their own, their colleagues' and the public's safety at risk will one day realise it is not worth the risks and costs associated.

The proven large majority of us who have rejected or turned away from the use of illicit substances should be congratulated. ACA?

Topics:  chris blanchard, in the know


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