Unfortunately, this issue is becoming more prevalent. It was raised at joint policing committee, JPC, briefings by Garda Superintendent Gerard Roche in the Limerick city division. He stated that, aside from what people would traditionally know as drink-driving, there had been an increase in the phenomenon known as drug-driving. He has requested more testing equipment. Currently, the division has only five machines, four of which are mobile and the fifth one being static. The Garda has applied for a further six machines.
The statistics are stark. From January to September, the ratio of detections for drug-driving compared with drink-driving was virtually 50:50. There were 128 drink-driving detections, an increase of 12% on last year's figure, but the 121 drug-driving detections represented a 128% increase year on year. This major surge occurred during the Covid period. More alarming was what happened during June and September. In June, there were 22 drug-driving detections and 19 drink-driving detections. In September, drug-driving detections numbered nearly three times more than drink-driving detections at 22 versus eight.
People need to be aware that, for a first drug-driving offence, drivers lose their licences and are disqualified from driving for four years. They lose their jobs as well. People might believe they will not be caught drug-driving after a certain time, but a drug, be it cannabis or cocaine, can stay in a driver's system for up to three or four weeks. The consequences are significant. People will automatically be disqualified for four years for a first offence. They will lose their jobs in many, if not nearly all, cases.
Will resources be made available to An Garda Síochána in Limerick to increase the number of machines for testing for drug-driving from the current five to 11? This is a growing phenomenon and education is needed. Gardaí in Limerick are looking for extra resources. Nothing I say takes away from the issue of drink-driving, which is equally as bad, but drug-driving is increasing significantly if the Limerick statistics are anything to go by. We are looking for funding for an extra six drug testing machines so that gardaí can do their job and ensure that people are not driving under the influence of drugs.