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“There is no problem driving on Prescription Medication”.

This is currently an issue that is of concern to a great number of people as a result of the introduction of Roadside Drug Testing under the Road Traffic Act 2016.

In a nutshell, if your doctor advises that you are fit to drive on your medication and provided you comply strictly with your prescription, you will not have any real difficulties.   Also, discuss any potential contraindications with your Doctor.

The new Legislation deals with roadside drug tests for both illicit and certain drugs that can be prescribed as medication (inc. morphine, opiates and diazapam).

It has, for many years, been an offence to drive while impaired due to drug consumption (whether illicit or not).   To succeed on a prosecution it had to be show that the drug consumption had impaired the individual’s driving.

The difference now, as a result of the 2016 Act, is that (without the necessity to prove that driving is impaired) if a driver is found to have drug concentrations over a stated level in his/her blood, an Offence is committed with a consequential disqualification for driving of at least 12 months may follow.

The process is that, if a roadside oral swab test suggests that an offence has occurred, the Driver may be arrested and brought to a Garda Station for blood testing by a Registered Medical Practitioner.   If the permitted levels are shown to have been exceeded, a prosecution may follow.

There is an “out” for a Driver on a Prescription Medication who is adhering to his/her prescription even if over the legal limit, provided his/her ability to drive is not impaired.

The 2016 Act provides that the individual on Prescription Medication who is relying on the “Medical Defence” must be the holder of a medical exemption certificate indicating that, at the time at which the drug was found to be present in his/her blood, it had been lawfully prescribed for him or her; this Certificate must be signed by the Doctor who prescribed the medication..

It is suggested by Advisors that this Certificate is kept in the glove compartment of your car.

Where the Legislation is not entirely clear is as to when the tendering of the Certificate essentially terminates the Process:-


  • While it should, of course, be produced at the Roadside to the Garda, the latter may still feel obliged to bring a Driver who has failed the test to the Garda Station.
  • If brought to the Garda Station it is suggested that the Certificate be brought to the attention of the Doctor there.   It would be hoped that this should be the end of the matter for such Drivers.
  • Should the matter be referred to Courts, the Certificate should of course, be produced in Court.

This is new Legislation and only time will really tell how it is implemented and works in practice.

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