General information about drugs and driving
Vehicles must not be operated unless the driver/operator is physically and mentally capable of controlling the vehicle and abiding by the provisions of applicable law. Anyone whose awareness is impaired as a result of having consumed a narcotic substance is considered unfit to drive on the public road, and must not attempt to drive or otherwise to operate any vehicle. The penalty for driving under the influence of drugs that impair your fitness to drive is consistent with that for driving under the influence of alcohol (and specifically for driving with a breath alcohol reading between 0.4 mg/l and 0.59 mg/l).
Unlike with drink-driving, there is no legally acceptable limit as far as the quantity of any drugs in your system is concerned. Under the law, the decision as to whether to prosecute you for driving under the influence of drugs is based solely on the degree to which your ability to drive is impaired, as determined by an authorised physician.
Assessing the extent to which narcotic substances affect your fitness to drive
If you are suspected of driving while under the influence of drugs, for example because you are driving erratically, because you have been involved in an accident, or because there are physical indications that you may be under the influence but you have clearly not drunk any alcohol, the police have the power to carry out a drugs test. Drugs tests under these circumstances follow a four-step process as set out below:
- Initial police check
to determine whether the suspicion that the driver is under the influence is justified. This check is carried out with the aid of a drugs checking form.
- Saliva sample
If there is a suspicion that a driver's fitness to drive is impaired, authorised physicians or specially trained and officially authorised police officers have the power to test the driver for drugs using a saliva testing kit. In 2017, the Federal Minister of the Interior and the Federal Minister of Transport, Innovation and Technology jointly approved the Ordinance on Saliva-Based Drug Testing Kits (Speichelvortestgeräteverordnung 2017), which stipulates that four different types of drug testing kits can be used for this purpose. Refusing to provide a saliva sample will almost always result in a clinical examination of the person being tested.
- Clinical examination
If the steps taken up to this point have given the police further reason to suspect that a driver is unfit to drive because they are under the influence of narcotic substances, the police can arrange for a nominated physician to assess the extent to which the driver's ability to drive is actually impaired. The police have the power to transport the person being tested from wherever they were stopped to a suitable medical facility for this purpose. On arrival, the doctor will then carry out a clinical examination.
- Blood test
If the clinical examination further strengthens the suspicion that the driver's ability to drive is impaired because they are under the influence of narcotic substances (and specifically if this is evidenced by a medical certificate), the authorised physician must take a blood sample from the driver and test it.
You cannot be forced to take a blood test. A sample of blood cannot be taken unless the individual being tested gives their consent. However, refusing to take a test is punishable by a fine.
If the results of the blood test establish that the person being tested is/has been abusing narcotic substances, this will not result in the driver being formally charged with a (drugs) offence. Instead, a notification to this effect will be sent to the relevant public health authorities. Any separate charges brought under the Austrian Road Traffic Ordinance (Strassenverkehrsordnung) will proceed separately as normal.
The driver will only have to bear the cost of relevant medical investigations if it is established that they were under the influence of narcotics that impaired their ability to drive.
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