Putting human beings in charge of complex machines capable of high speeds on public roads and weighing as much as two tonnes or even more brings with it a heavy responsibility that is all too often taken for granted.
Impair that driver with drugs and alcohol and the risk to others sharing the road - particularly highly vulnerable pedestrians and cyclists - rises exponentially.
Fifty years ago, jurisdictions across Australia moved to introduce blood alcohol testing on drivers and set limits for the first time. The move created public uproar at the time but decades on, roadside testing of drivers for alcohol and specific drugs - notably cannabis, methamphetamine and MDMA (ecstasy) - has now become an accepted practice.
In both 2019 and 2020 respectively, over 700 ACT drivers were charged with driving under the influence of illicit substances.
So far this year - and we are not yet halfway through the year - 10 people have died on ACT roads. While the coronial hearings for these events are yet to be conducted, police have cautiously admitted drugs and/or alcohol appear to have been contributing factors in the majority of these collisions. For those whose loved ones were the blameless victims of impaired drivers, it's a simply awful, heartbreaking outcome.
This week the ACT government announced it would begin the process to decriminalise the personal possession of all illicit drugs, including methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine.
In their submission to the ACT Assembly drug inquiry, police flagged the concern that "if certain substances are decriminalised, this could lead to a perception from the community that driving under the influence of drugs is acceptable".
Police do not have a capability to road-side test for all the drugs listed for decriminalisation.
The huge question now, should decriminalisation proceed, is how to prevent the inherent risk this process could result in even more road trauma, death and sadness.
Do our legislators simply sit back, tick this box and accept the risk?
Or would they think twice if it was one of their children killed or maimed for life by a drug-impaired driver?
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