Bev Lacey

Drug driving operation finds one in five positive

ONE in five people have tested positive for driving with illicit drugs in their system during a random drug testing operation in South Grafton, in what police have called an "unbelievable" weekend.   

Among those who tested positive was a heavily pregnant P-Plater, a man who allegedly kicked a police vehicle, and a 58-year-old man caught twice in South Grafton in as many hours.   

Local Highway Patrol numbers were heavily boosted on the weekend by a eight-car strike force from Sydney and a Random Drug Testing bus as part of Operation Safe Arrival.   

But despite the huge number of high-visibility patrol vehicles on the roads, Grafton Highway Patrol Sergeant Jarrod French said it was a disappointing weekend.   

Of 150 random drug tests conducted from Friday to Sunday, 31 roadside positive tests were recorded.   "That's a huge figure; about a one-in-five hit rate," Sergeant French said.  

While most positive tests were for amphetamines or cannabis, the Grafton-based officer said there was an alarming number of people who tested positive for both.   

At 4.45pm on Friday, a 36-year-old male driving a Holden Commodore station wagon was stopped by police at the Shell service station on Bent St for an RBT and vehicle compliance testing.   

He was given a defect notice for issues with the car and subjected to a drug test which allegedly returned a positive reading.   

Police said while he was being arrested, the man became aggressive and threatened to assault police.

He was restrained using handcuffs after allegedly resisting arrest and kicking a police vehicle, damaging a panel.   

At the drug bus he allegedly returned a second positive sample for cannabis, and was charged with a number of offences including resist arrest and assault police.   

On Sunday afternoon, a 22-year-old woman, who was 35 weeks pregnant, was randomly stopped and drug tested by highway patrol officers on Iolanthe St in South Grafton.   

After returning a positive reading she was conveyed to a drug bus, where she supplied a secondary oral sample, which allegedly returned a positive result to cannabis.   

She was prohibited from driving for 24 hours pending further court action, and police noted her two children and an adult male were passengers in the car at the time.      

In comparison, there were only three drink-driving offences detected.   

Across the Coffs/Clarence, local police alone conducted 1200 breath tests and highway patrol vehicles issued 53 speeding fines, 47 other tickets and five notices for unrestrained passengers.  

One 19-year-old, who was detected doing 153kmh on the Pacific Hwy at Cowper about 4.30pm on Friday, received a nasty Christmas surprise in the form of a $2300 fine and a six-month licence suspension.   

As a P1 restricted driver, he was only allowed to travel at speeds of up to 90kmh.      

"We're pretty disappointed, there were 10 speeding tickets issued in the Clarence Valley on Friday alone," Sergeant French said.   

"Luckily we didn't have any serious car accidents but we still detected a large number of offences which is unbelievable considering the high number of police, and coming off that horrific crash in Casino."  

Three people, including the four-year-old victim in Friday's Casino crash, have died in three fatal crashes on the state's roads in as many days.     



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