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Police detainees show higher than average rate of drug driving

Media Release

04 June 2008

A new paper released today by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) shows that two-thirds of adult police detainees surveyed had driven after using drugs and/or alcohol.

The report, Drug driving among police detainees in Australia, analyses data from the AIC's Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) program from 2005 and 2006 and explores the characteristics of police detainees who drive after drug use as well as their perceptions of the risks in doing so.

"The rate of drug driving among the police detainees in the study is significantly higher than the general population," said Dr Judy Putt, General Manager Research at the AIC. "In terms of their perceptions about the effect of drugs on their driving ability, most detainees reported they had a negative effect, but some perceived particular drugs to have a positive effect. Specifically, cannabis was perceived by 15 percent of detainees as having a positive effect on driving, while 22 percent thought amphetamines/methylamphetamines had a positive effect."

The study showed that the most commonly used drug prior to driving was cannabis (40%), followed by alcohol (31%) and amphetamine/methylamphetamine (30%). In comparison, a relatively small percentage of detainees reported driving following the use of heroin (6%), benzodiazepines (5%) and cocaine (4%).

"Another key area investigated was the relationship between detainees' drug use and their involvement in high-speed police pursuits," said Dr Putt. "Three-quarters of police detainees who had been involved as a driver in a high-speed police pursuit reported being under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol at the time.

"Amphetamine/methylamphetamine was the most common drug used prior to a high-speed police pursuit, followed by cannabis and alcohol."

These findings are consistent with past research, which links the effects of amphetamine/ methylamphetamine and the propensity for some individuals to become involved in aggressive driving behaviour such as police pursuits. It has been suggested that amphetamine/ methylamphetamine users may be attracted to police pursuits for the same reasons they use the drugs - a desire for excitement and risk-taking behaviour.

Media contact: Barbara Walsh Tel: 02.6260 9244; 0409 985 600 ; aic.media@aic.gov.au