Better approach to drug use by drivers

As of 1 July 2017, road users can be checked for drug use by means of a saliva tester. The police will be phasing in this new device for use on the road in the period ahead. The saliva tester will enable better monitoring of drug use by drivers. Effective 1 July, new legal limits will apply for amphetamine-like substances, cocaine, opiates (morphine/heroin), cannabis (THC) and GHB-like substances. For combinations of drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol, so-called zero limits will apply.

The police will use the saliva tester if there are signs that a driver has been using drugs; these include, for example, unusual driving behaviour, suspicions during a standard traffic check (such as dilated pupils) or driving away after visiting a coffee shop, in combination with other indicators. At present, police officers are still being trained to use the new device. The implementation of the saliva tester will therefore be carried out in phases.

The Dutch Road Traffic Act has become more stringent regarding the use of ten designated drugs in order to improve road safety and reduce traffic-related mortalities and injuries. Depending on the active substance, drugs affect a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle in varous different ways. Drugs can lead to reckless driving, for instance, but can also cause drowsiness or sleepiness. The use of multiple drugs or the combination of drugs and alcohol further increases the risk of serious road accidents.

Starting on 1 July, saliva testing will allow police to quickly and easily see whether one or more designated drugs have been used. Police officers may require road users to provide a saliva sample. If the test is positive, then a follow-up investigation will be conducted. To this end, a doctor or nurse will draw blood and the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) will analyse the blood sample to determine the type and amount of drugs present. The results of the blood test will then serve as evidence.

It is known, for example, that drugs can remain in the body for an extended period of time after use. This depends on various factors: the type of drug, the quality of the drug, the frequency and level of use, and individual characteristics such as the metabolism and weight of the person concerned. Given the zero limits currently in place, it can therefore also be risky to drive if drugs have been used a few days prior.

As is already the case now, after 1 July there will be no exceptions for drivers who use drugs for medicinal purposes. This applies even if the driver is able to provide a medical certificate  to police on the spot.

Ministry responsible