THE ACT is preparing to begin roadside drug testing drivers for from next week, promising heavy penalties including jail for those caught driving under the influence of drugs.
Police plan to roll out roadside drug-testing operations on May 16, led by two specially trained officers.
The officers will initially conduct tests in conjunction with other police operations, like random-breath testing.
The tests will target cannabis, MDMA (ecstasy) and amphetamines, with offending drivers required to appear before court.
A first offence can lead to a fine of up to $1100 and loss of licence, while repeat offenders face fines of up to $2750 and three months' imprisonment.
Police Minister Simon Corbell said the ACT introduction matched best practice policing in other Australian jurisdictions.
The ACT Government allocated more than $4million to target drug-drivers in last week's budget, including $2.9million to implement roadside random drug-testing procedures and $1.4million over four years to analyse test samples.
ACT Policing head of traffic operations Superintendent Mark Colbran said the tests would improve safety.
''We know using drugs and driving can be just as dangerous as drinking and driving, which is one of the major causes of road fatality in the ACT,'' he said.
''We'll be gradually rolling it out; at the moment we have a limited amount of officers who are trained and can do it.
''As we become more proficient at it, and get more people trained, there will probably be operations to target drug-driving.''
Superintendent Colbran said the three drugs had been targeted because of their popularity and ability to impair a driver's ability to control a vehicle.
Amphetamines' users became risk takers after taking the stimulant and then coming off the drug were irritable and angry, with impaired cognitive abilities.
Cannabis, like alcohol, is a depressant and affects reaction times.
Superintendent Colbran said although methamphetamine was made from substances such as pseudoephedrine (found in cold and flu tablets), those substances would not be detected by the swab saliva tests.
BY MICHAEL INMAN
08 May, 2011