First arrest under new drug-drive regulations

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 March, 2012, 12:00am


Police have made their first arrest of a driver suspected to be under the influence of an illegal drug since a drug-driving law came into effect last week.

The driver, 33, was also the first person in the city to be subject to a new five-part impairment test to see whether he was influenced by drugs.

The man was arrested in Aberdeen after his delivery van slammed into two stationary vehicles outside Hoi Fai Mansion on Aberdeen Main Road at about 11.30pm on Thursday.

Officers seized a small amount of what was believed to be ketamine in the van. No passenger was on board at the time and no one was injured, police said.

The driver tested negative for alcohol on a breathalyser. 'But it appeared he was high on drugs. Our colleagues suspected he had taken an illegal drug,' a police officer said. 'A roadside assessment was carried out to check his pupils for dilation and reactions. He failed the test.'

The man was then taken to Aberdeen police station, where he was given the impairment test. The half-hour test assesses a driver's alertness, ability to process instructions and balance, co-ordination and depth perception. It involves checking the ability to stand on one foot, count silently, count aloud, and put a finger on his or her nose.

'As he failed the impairment test, he was ordered to surrender his driving licence for 24 hours,' the officer said. The man was taken to Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam to test his blood for drugs.

A police spokeswoman said the driver was arrested on suspicion of drug-driving and possession of an illegal drug. He was released on bail of HK$5,000 and is required to report back to police on April 24.

The amended Road Traffic Ordinance came into effect on March 15, allowing police to compel drivers to give urine and blood samples if they fail the impairment test. Six illicit drugs - heroin, ketamine, methamphetamine, cannabis, cocaine and Ecstasy - are covered under the law.

Offenders face up to three years in jail and a HK$25,000 fine. They may also have their driving licence disqualified for five years for the first offence and 10 years for the second.

The impairment test is based on models in Australia, Britain, the United States and Canada.

In all, 200 traffic police officers have been trained to conduct the test, with plans to increase that number to 1,200.