Thursday, April 25, 2024

New drug driving laws hit the road

New infringements and tougher penalties for drivers found to be impaired by drugs come into effect tomorrow (11 March).

Under the Land Transport (Drug Driving) Amendment Act, drugs that impair the ability to drive safely have been ring-fenced by legislation and tougher penalties, said Police Assistant Commissioner Bruce O’Brien.

“This is a significant step against reducing the harm caused on our roads by drug driving. Data collected from fatal crashes highlights the presence of impairing drugs in a driver’s blood is now generally about equal to alcohol – this has more than doubled since 2015,” he said.

Ninety-three people were killed in crashes in 2021 where a driver was found to have the presence of drugs – the figure represents nearly a third of all fatalities that year.

“Police are ready to enforce these new laws and we will continue to use our current practice to identify drivers using drugs by carrying out compulsory impairment tests,” said Assistant Commissioner O’Brien.

If a driver fails this test, they will be required to give an evidential blood test for analysis which can determine what enforcement action is deemed appropriate for the offence.

The key changes from the legislation are:
• Introduction of Schedule 5 to the Act with 25 listed qualifying drugs that have the highest risk of impairing the ability to drive safely
• New enforcement levels (or limits) with a lower (threshold) and higher (high-risk) level for each listed qualifying drug in Schedule 5
• The blood test analysis will now confirm either the presence or level of a qualifying drug
• Introduction of infringement level offences for drivers between the threshold and high-risk levels
• Tougher penalties for driving after consuming qualifying drugs, mixing with other qualifying drugs, and/or alcohol
• 82 new offences.

Police undertook a procurement process to identify a suitable Oral Fluid Testing device to carry out random roadside drug driving testing. After rigorous testing, however, it was found that there was no device available to meet the criteria and intent of the legislation.

“Random roadside drug driving testing will still be implemented following amendments made to the legislation, which is likely to include a confirmatory evidential laboratory test similar to how devices are used in other jurisdictions including Australia,” the Assistant Commissioner said.

“The goal of the legislation is to detect and deter drug-driving that potentially impacts the safety of everyone on our roads.

“Partnering agencies are working together on implementing the Road to Zero strategy and ultimately, we want to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries that happens on our roads causing devastation to families and whanau,” he said.

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