By Evie Andreou
THERE is a growing trend of fatal road accidents caused by the use of drugs, the Justice ministry said on Wednesday, expressing its determination to promote legislation for the introduction of the narcotest, which is pending before House committees since 2010.
The ministry said police statistics suggest the introduction of the narcotest is necessary since driving under the influence of drugs has evolved into an especially serious social problem.
“In the last five years, among 64 deaths caused by the use of drugs, 25 cases or 39 per cent were road accidents. This percentage was due mainly to the use of cannabis and cocaine, while a significant number of drivers were also under the influence of alcohol, thus creating a deadly cocktail,” the ministry announcement said.
“The Justice ministry stresses the need for the bill to pass as soon as possible, since based on statistical data, our concerns on the number of motorists driving under the influence of addictive substances involved in fatal traffic collisions, are confirmed. It is our duty as a government to proceed with this matter,” it said.
It added that Justice minister Ionas Nicolaou called a meeting recently of the ad hoc committee to promote the relevant legislation amendment and the procedure for the narcotest application, which is part of the measures to reduce road accidents promoted by the Road Safety Council.
The bill provides penalisation of driving under the influence of drugs, and it also gives police the right to subject drivers to a narcotest in road accidents or in cases they suspect drivers are under the influence of drugs.
“During the discussion it was decided that … the police officer will have the right to seek an on-site saliva test for a preliminary test through a disposable device. If the test detects drugs in the saliva sample, a second saliva sample will be taken also on-site for lab test to verify the initial sample,” the announcement said.
In the case the person under investigation cannot provide a saliva sample for health reasons, police officers will ask for a blood sample to be lab tested, while if anyone refuses to provide saliva or blood samples, they will be considered as crime suspects.
The bill, for which police and ministry officials were failing to see eye to eye on how the drug use could be detected, was to be tabled in parliament before Easter, the head of the House legal affairs committee Soteris Sampson had said back in February.
Currently, the draft bill is being amended according to these decisions, the ministry said, and will soon be submitted to the House legal affairs and communications committees.