Safety focus in improved drug driver testing

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Improving the safety of all road users is the focus of a new public consultation document on the issue of drug driver testing.

“While drug drivers already face serious criminal penalties if caught, the current law makes it hard for police to carry out higher numbers of tests that could deter drug driving,” says Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter.

“And unlike with alcohol testing, drug testing comes with some unique challenges, which is why we want expert and public input into the design process. For example, unlike alcohol breath tests, drug tests can only detect the presence of drugs or medication. They cannot test if a driver is impaired.”

Genter says the government knows the public want to be involved in the development of legislation that will affect them, and consultation will ensure changes to the current system incorporate the needs and wishes of New Zealanders.

“A considered approach to developing enhanced drug driver testing will mean we can develop a robust testing system that’s grounded in evidence and best practice. We need to do this thoughtfully.”

Minister of Police Stuart Nash says that irrespective of whether someone is impaired by alcohol, medication or recreational drugs, they shouldn’t be behind the wheel.

“Last year, 71 people were killed in crashes where a driver was found to have drugs or medication in their system which may have impaired their driving.  That compares to 109 deaths where a driver was found to have alcohol in their system.

“We need to do more to stop dangerous drivers getting behind the wheel and enforcement on our roads is a key part of this. However police cannot do this on their own. Every one of us must challenge dangerous driving behaviours when we see them,” Nash says.

Consultation will take place over the next six weeks, ending Friday 28 June. The Government will be looking to confirm its options at the end of this year.

The Government is looking for feedback on:

  • the methods that could be used to screen and test for drugs

  • the circumstances in which a driver should be tested

  • what drugs should be tested for

  • how an offence for drug driving should be dealt with by police.

The discussion document can be found here: https://www.transport.govt.nz/assets/Import/Uploads/Research/Documents/Cabinet-Papers/6e11751cf5/UNISCS-Interim-progress-report-on-the-Upper-North-Island-Supply-Chain-Strategy_Final-v2.pdf