The new measures to target motorists doped up on medication such as codeine will also include an awareness campaign for GPs and pharmacists.
The new measures to target motorists doped up on medication such as codeine will also include an awareness campaign for GPs and pharmacists.

Driving dosed up on prescription drugs to become illegal

A CRACKDOWN on drivers getting behind the wheel while dosed up on prescription pills such as cold and flu tablets will include changing drug-driving laws to automatically cover all prescription drugs.

The new measures to target motorists doped up on medication such as codeine will also include an awareness campaign for GPs and pharmacists.

NSW Roads Minister Melinda Pavey said the definition of "drug" in the Road Transport Act was being broadened to ensure people caught driving while impaired by "new and emerging" drugs, including pharmaceuticals, can be charged with driving under the influence.

"We want to stay ahead of a bell curve that's constantly changing. Ice has been around a decade but where was it 20 years ago, where was crack 30 years ago?" Ms Pavey said.

"This gives us some capacity to move swiftly if we see other drugs emerging. The law is still there - driving under the influence of a drug can mean illicit or prescribed - but this gives us capacity to name new drugs coming in."

NSW Minister for Roads Melinda Pavey said the changes would give laws the capacity to include new drugs coming in. Picture: AAP
NSW Minister for Roads Melinda Pavey said the changes would give laws the capacity to include new drugs coming in. Picture: AAP

An awareness campaign about the risks of driving while on prescription medication will also be launched for GPs, pharmacists and the public.

Meanwhile all patients in the Opioid Treatment Program will now have to pass a fitness-to-drive assessment when they start treatment, when their dose is "substantially increased" and when a patient is identified as high-risk of impaired driving.

The government paid KPMG more than $180,000 to review the rules around prescription medication and driving in NSW in the wake of Home And Away star Jessica Falkholt's death. Ms Falkholt, her sister and parents died when a driver who'd just left a methadone clinic smashed into their car on the NSW South Coast in December.

The Falkholt family pictured in a Facebook photo on Christmas Day 2017 before the Boxing Day crash near Sussex. Picture: Facebook
The Falkholt family pictured in a Facebook photo on Christmas Day 2017 before the Boxing Day crash near Sussex. Picture: Facebook

Ms Pavey believes some drivers underestimate the impact of prescription pills.

"Any mind or brain altering substance whether it be alcohol illegal drugs or pharmaceutical drugs - they can all have an impact on your ability to drive safely," she said.

Jessica Falkholt was on life support but died six days after it was switched off. Picture: AAP
Jessica Falkholt was on life support but died six days after it was switched off. Picture: AAP

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant was involved in drafting the new rules and stressed that patients who are stable on opioid treatments, like methadone, are safe drivers.

Dr Chant said doctors must educate patients on the risk of driving while medicated.

"We also want to strengthen the information provided to patients on the risks of prescription medication and how that might interact with things, particularly alcohol," she said.

Annabelle Falkholt was left in a critical condition before she died from her injuries.
Annabelle Falkholt was left in a critical condition before she died from her injuries.


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