THE Government has announced its plans for consulting the public with the aim of creating a robust process to test drug-affected drivers.
Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter and Minister of Police Stuart Nash, who released a consultation document yesterday afternoon, said the ultimate aim was to improve the safety of all road users.
Ms Genter said while drug drivers already faced serious criminal penalties if caught, the current law made it hard for police to carry out higher numbers of tests that could deter drug driving.
“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.
“We know the public wants to be involved in the development of legislation that will impact them. 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,” said Ms Genter.
Mr Nash said irrespective of whether someone was 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.”
He said more needed to be done to stop dangerous drivers getting behind the wheel but police could not carry enforcement on their own.
“Every one of us must challenge dangerous driving behaviours when we see them,” Mr Nash said.
Consultation will take place over the next six weeks, concluding on June 28. The Government will be looking to confirm its options at the end of this year.
It wants 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.
Further details will be available on the Ministry of Transport website.