Mike Stevens | May 7, 2009

Regulators and the police provide constant reminders about the dangers of driving while affected by illegal substances. Now in a world-first study, the University of Sydney will investigate the level of impairment caused by the use of methamphetamines.

Volunteer drivers will take part in a simulated driving test to determine a level of driver error while under the influence of methamphetamines like speed and ice. The results will then be compared to non-drug users who will sit the same test.

university-of-sydney-simulatorUniversity of Sydney researcher, David Bosanquet wants to determine how the use of such drugs can alter a driver's behaviour behind the wheel. An estimated half-a-million Australians use methamphetamines with one in four young male drivers reportedly using drugs, while 17 percent of fatal accidents in Australia involve drugs.

"Methamphetamines can have a devastating effect on driver safety, both during and after drug use and is a factor in numerous road accidents and fatalities yet we know almost nothing about how methamphetamines actually contributes to driver error." Bosanquet said.

"We are not just looking at the acute effects but chronic use and also what happens if someone is withdrawing,” he said. “Ice is an emerging drug and there has never been any study before on how it affects driving ability."

Participants in the study will 'drive' through realistic suburbs and be presented with pedestrians, other vehicles and traffic signals just as they would in normal driving. Blood tests will determine the amount of drugs, if any, in the participants’ body and the test results will be compared to drug-free drivers.

Areas under scrutiny will be reaction times, vehicle speed and concentration. Methamphetamines are believed to lead to an increase in risky driving behaviour.

"Since roadside drug testing was implemented in 2006, millions have been spent to test, charge and sentence those found guilty," Mr Bosanquet said. "It's important to understand the science behind this sort of initiative."

[Source: The Daily Telegraph]

Follow Mike Stevens on Google+