ACT News

Street value of positive drug tests: $20,333 each

RANDOM roadside drug testing in the ACT has cost taxpayers about $915,000 in the past 15 months and identified just 45 positive results - the equivalent of more than $20,000 for each potentially intoxicated driver, according to ACT Policing figures.

In 2012, 1733 roadside drug tests were conducted, of which 36 returned a positive result.

So far this year 652 roadside drug tests have been conducted, with nine returning a positive result.

Fairfax Media previously was told that each test costs about $383 and ACT policing is on track to meet its target to test 2000 drivers this year.

ACT policing introduced the controversial test in May 2011 and was criticised by civil libertarians. Civil Liberties Australia spokesman Tim Vines blasted the law's zero-tolerance approach, under which the presence of even the smallest concentration of drugs triggers a positive result.

Mr Vines has said this means the crime is not based on the actual impairment of driving ability and opens drivers up to being prosecuted in cases in which they have passively or accidentally consumed illicit substances, for example, through second-hand cannabis smoke.

The testing process has also come under fire, with a West-Australian study revealing roadside saliva swabs are wildly inaccurate, recording an error rate of one in seven in 2009.

ACT Policing did not provide figures on how many of the 45 positive drug tests were confirmed with a second test. Or how many people were charged and prosecuted for driving under the influence of drugs.

CORRECTION: This article initially incorrectly said the cost of the drug testing program over 15 months was $3.5 million and the cost per test conducted was $1450. The total cost was $915,000, and the cost per test was around $383.