Cabinet takes firmer action against drug use in traffic

Drug use by road users can be traced more quickly. In future, police officers can oblige motorists, motorcyclists and moped riders to cooperate in taking saliva with a so-called saliva tester, a fairly simple method to determine if someone has used drugs. This improves the fight against drug use in traffic. The Council of Ministers has agreed to this on the recommendation of Minister of Security and Justice Opstelten and Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment Schultz van Haegen.

Driving under the influence of drugs will become a punishable offence. A list of frequently used drugs specifies the limit values above which drug use poses a threat to traffic. For instance, the measurable substance amphetamine and cocaine in the blood of the driver may not exceed 50 micrograms per litre of blood. In the case of cannabis use the limit value for the measurable substance tetrahydrocannabinol has been set at 3.0 micrograms per litre of blood.

It is perfectly clear which drugs negatively influence the ability to drive and above which values the use of these substances is punishable. This means that for these drugs it will no longer be necessary to prove that the driver of the motor vehicle was under the influence of the used drug to such an extent that he was incapable of driving. If a blood test shows that the measurable substance content of the driver's blood exceeds the limit value specified, this constitutes proof that the driver has committed an offence to be punished, for instance, by imposing a fine or a temporary driving disqualification. The new regulation is required to further improve traffic safety. Research has shown that drug use negatively influences driving behaviour, increasing the risk of accidents.

The saliva tester is a pre-selection device. Because it doesn’t specify how much the driver has used of which drug, the analysis of the blood sample taken will continue to serve as proof. Saliva testing is comparable to the preliminary analysis of exhaled air in an alcohol test. If the saliva test is positive, the driver is brought in as a suspect for blood testing by the NFI. If the saliva tester has not shown the use of drugs, but there is a strong suspicion that the driver has used, the police may also have the driver cooperate in a test examining his psychomotor, eyesight and speech functions. This is because the saliva tester cannot detect the use of all drugs. In that case the police checks the driver’s speed of response, his sense of balance or the reflex of his pupils to light.

The Council of Ministers has agreed to send the legislative proposal to the Council of State for its opinion. The text of the legislative proposal and the advice of the Council of State will be made public on submission to the Lower House.