Pubdate: Tue, 12 Oct 1999
Source: Belfast Telegraph (UK)
Copyright: 1999 Belfast Telegraph Newspapers Ltd.
Author: Marie Foy


Drugs and driving could be a more serious problem in Northern Ireland than
is realised, the RAC Foundation warned today.

Spokeswoman Sue Nicholson said there was no reason to believe that people
who took drugs did not also drive while under their influence.

"We think that potentially it could be a worse problem than drinking and
driving. We are only beginning to uncover the tip of the iceberg," she warned.

Ms Nicholson also said there was no reason to suppose that Belfast and
other areas of Northern Ireland were not affected in line with the growing
recreational drug culture.

She was speaking as 93% of motorists questioned in a new UK-wide survey
said they would support a government information campaign on the dangers of
drugs and driving.

The group is calling for a high profile anti-drug driving TV campaign, the
introduction of a warning on all medicines, and the development of an
effective roadside drug driving test.

"Much of our evidence is anecdotal rather than from police prosecutions
which is why we would like more studies done to examine the breadth and
depth of the problem," she urged.

Ms Nicholson applauded efforts made by the government in the Republic who
have researched the problem and have carried out a public awareness
campaign about illicit and over the counter drugs.

"We would like to see the UK government doing the same," she said.

The RAC Foundation claimed there was growing evidence that many young
people would take illicit drugs and drive, making case for action stronger
than ever.

The opinion poll showed that 11% of the people interviewed knew someone who
drives a car while under the influence of an illicit drug.

The figure was higher (17%) for those aged between 17 and 34 and higher in
men (13%) compared to women (9%).

The research also revealed that there is widespread support for the police
to be given powers to carry out roadside testing. More than 90% said they
believed this would be a good idea.

Of those quizzed, 70% believed that a traffic light warning system on the
packaging of legal drugs would be very useful.

And 4% stated that they had had a bad driving experience caused by taking
legal medication.

"This research clearly shows strong need for a widespread public
information campaign on the dangers of drugs and driving," Ms Nicholson said.

"With overwhelming support from motorists, the government clearly have to
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