Druggies behind wheel in hours

October 31, 2007 10:18am

MORE than half of Australian drivers who smoke cannabis or take methamphetamines say they have got behind the wheel of a car within three hours of drug use, a survey has found.

The Australian Drug Foundation (ADF) and Turning Point (TP) alcohol and drug centre today announced the findings of their study into the drug-driving habits of Australian motorists.

The anonymous online survey of 6801 Australians questioning drivers about their attitudes toward and experiences of drugs and driving was undertaken over 2006.

The survey also found users of illicit and pharmaceutical drugs were more likely to drive after taking drugs than those who drank alcohol.

Fifty-three per cent of Australian drivers who smoked cannabis and 52 per cent who used methamphetamines reported driving within three hours of drug use.

More than 37.5 per cent of respondents who took ecstasy and 30.3 per cent of respondents who used benzodiazepines, which are minor tranquilisers, said they also drove within three hours using a drug.

This compares to 13.8 per cent of Australians who had consumed alcohol and then drove with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) greater than .05.

ADF researcher Jane Mallick said men were more likely to drive after using drugs and alcohol than women.

"Of alcohol users, for example, men were almost twice as likely as women to get behind the wheel after drinking, with 18.6 per cent having driven with a BAC of more than .05, compared to 10.8 per cent of women,'' Dr Mallick said.

"When it came to cannabis use, 61.8 per cent of male respondents who used the drug admitted driving within three hours, compared to 41.5 per cent of women."

Dr Mallick said many illicit and pharmaceutical drug users were ignorant when it came to understanding the impact that those substances could have on their driving ability.

"More than two-thirds of respondents knew a little or nothing about the impact of illicit drugs on driving,'' she said.

"Overwhelmingly, respondents had little idea about how long to wait between the use of drugs other than alcohol and driving.''

Dr Mallick said there was a need to provide widespread, targeted education and information to drug users.

"Information and education initiatives need to focus on the impairment to driving ability for all forms of drug use, including illicit and pharmaceutical drugs and we must not forget alcohol,'' she said.