171. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason a limited number of gardaí have received training to carry out roadside drugs tests; the number of trained gardaí in each division; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6637/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Road Traffic Act 2016 provides members of An Garda Síochána with the power to require a driver to provide a sample of oral fluid. Devices have been sourced and provided to An Garda Síochána by the Medical Bureau of Road Safety, which tests the sample provided for the presence of cocaine, cannabis, benzodiazepine and opiates. This test can be performed at the roadside prior to arrest or at a Garda Station following arrest, in respect of certain road traffic offences.
I am informed that over 3,000 members of An Garda Síochána have received training in the process of oral roadside testing at this time. The relevant sections of the Road Traffic Act 2016 were commenced on 13 April 2017.
I understand that An Garda Síochána experienced some difficulties following the roll-out of training, but that these matters have since been addressed with training now being provided to members nationwide.
I have also been advised by the Garda authorities that training in the use of the equipment in question remains ongoing.
This oral fluid test is only one of the options open to members of An Garda Síochána in respect of the detection of drug driving offences. Members of An Garda Síochána may perform a roadside breath test to test for the presence of alcohol prior to making a decision to perform an oral fluid test. Members of An Garda Síochána may also form the opinion that a driver is under the influence of an intoxicant from their observation of the person’s driving or the behaviour and appearance of the person when stopped.
In addition, the power to conduct an impairment test is provided under Section 11 of the Road Traffic Act 2010, as amended, which permits members of An Garda Síochána to require a driver to perform a number of tests in order for the member to establish if the driver is committing an offence. These provisions have been further extended by the Road Traffic Act 2016, which permits members of An Garda Síochána to perform an impairment test following arrest in respect of certain road traffic offences. I am currently informed that over 2,000 members of An Garda Síochána nationwide have received training in conducting Impairment Testing.
The introduction of Preliminary Drug Testing in 2017 strengthens the ability of Gardaí to tackle drug driving.
An Garda Síochána also intends to have a stronger focus on road traffic enforcement in the training provided to new recruits at Templemore and this will have a positive impact on enforcement and, as a result, safety on our roads.