Police may target six drugs in crackdown in drug driving

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 July, 2010, 12:00am

Six drugs most commonly abused by Hong Kong people have been shortlisted as the targets in a government move to tackle drug driving.

Under a proposal to be unveiled next week, any driver found to have abused ketamine heroin, cocaine, Ecstasy, marijuana or Ice would be charged and prosecuted regardless of whether their driving was impaired, a person familiar with the situation said.

But unlike drink driving police would not be given power to conduct random tests, because there were no devices like the breathalyser that could allow police officers to determine quickly whether the driver was under the influence of drugs.

Police would be able to require the suspect to perform a physical test - such as walking a straight line, if they had reason to believe the driver had taken drugs, such as erratic driving.

Drivers who failed the initial test would be taken to a hospital for a thorough medical check-up, the person said.

In Australia, suspects are asked to provide body fluid, such as saliva, for testing, but there was little proof the test used there would be as effective on ketamine - an abusive drug favoured by Hong Kong teenagers.

The Transport and Housing Bureau will submit the proposal to Legco transport panel for discussion next Friday.

Transport minister Eva Cheng said earlier that dangerous drugs will be dealt with separately from other drugs.

This is why midazolam - another commonly-abused drug in Hong Kong, was not included in the list because it was a medication used to treat insomnia.

The government came under pressure to speed up on the legislation of drug driving after a spate of incidents involving drug-affected drivers.

In January, a cabbie who had taken ketamine the previous night stopped his vehicle at a green light and later ran a red light, forcing a frightened passenger to jump out of the moving taxi after he ignored her demand to stop.

The vehicle later crashed into a railing.

The number of drug driving case over the first five months of this year was almost triple the 12 recorded in the four years to 2009. Among the recent 34 incidents, 14 were uncovered after an accident, while the rest were reported by citizens.

Lawmaker Andrew Cheng Kar-foo said drug drivers should be banned from driving for life and the maximum jail term for the offence should not be less than five years.

On a high

The incidence of drug driving has surged this year

The number of drug driving cases in the first five months: 34