As discussion around drugged driving in New Zealand continues, the government continues to move to pass its Land Transport (Drug Driving) Amendment Bill. The bill aims to increase the frequency of drug testing of drivers, via breath tests, oral fluid tests, and blood tests while also streamline and refining the 1998 Land Transport Act.
The most notable change is the focus on saliva-based oral testing, placing New Zealand in line with drug driver testing in other countries while also providing a more convenient test process than blood testing.
The government is currently accepting submissions ahead of the Transport and Select Committee’s report in early June. Among those to issue feedback on the amended bill is the Road Transport Forum (RTF). The group supports the bulk of the amendment, although it adds that the time it’s taken to have the bill progress through parliament has been “frustrating”.
“Statistics show that drivers impaired by drugs are causing harm and death on our roads; more deaths than drunk drivers. We need to get those drugged drivers off the road as soon as possible and hold them accountable for their willful disregard of the lives of others,” says RTF CEO Nick Leggett.
“The Road Transport Forum has lodged its submission on the Land Transport (Drug Driving) Amendment Bill, fully supporting the establishment of a new random roadside oral fluid testing regime to sit alongside the current compulsory impairment test (CIT) approach to drug driving. We agree that addressing drug driving is essential to reduce road trauma and make our roads safer.
“While the time it has taken for a testing regime to come about is frustrating, the legislation introduced in 2020 should be in place this year. It will finally give police the power to conduct random roadside saliva-based testing of drivers they suspect are impaired by the influence of drugs. This is capacity police in many other jurisdictions already have.”
The RTF’s submission names a small selection of gripes with the amendment; namely the lack of explanation around why some being tested will require two oral tests instead of just one, and a view that all police should be equipped to perform the testing, as opposed to just some.
The group also called for standardised drug testing of people involved in crashes — a current vacancy in the government’s amendment.
“We also believe to provide adequate statistical analysis around the true harm caused by drug use on New Zealand roads, that drivers involved in crashes should always be tested for drugs, whether or not they are injured, and if they are deceased as part of the autopsy process,” Leggett added.
“This is an area of data gathering that is currently not robust because if the presence of alcohol is obvious, the drivers are not then necessarily tested for drugs.”