The dangers of drug driving

Monday, March 14, 2016

Alcohol and speed are the major contributing factors to deaths on our roads, but drugs also play a big part in road accidents. It is time we pay more attention to drivers affected by drugs.

Two thirds of cannabis users, nearly half of P users, and a quarter of ecstasy users admit to driving under the influence. This is unacceptable and we need to better address this problem. I have submitted a Member’s Bill in Parliament to introduce random road side drug tests. I want our roads to be safe, we don’t need any more meaningless deaths caused by drunk or drugged driving.  

Although alcohol and speed remain the biggest contributors to road crashes in New Zealand, drugs are responsible for an alarming amount of road deaths. From 2004 to 2009 an Environmental Science and Research study showed 30 per cent of deceased drivers had used cannabis.  The law needs changing so we take drug driving just as seriously as we do drunk driving. Doing so will save lives. 

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) has introduced new ad campaigns on TV to warn against the risks of drug driving. Education is the most important tool in changing behaviours, and the Government has an important part to play in giving people information so they can make sensible choices. TV adverts are successful because the strong visuals force people to turn their minds to the choices they are making. The drink driving ads have been highly successful, building on the stigma attached to drink driving. I believe the same can be achieved for drug driving.

While there are drug driving laws in place, for a driver to be tested for drugs there must first be a good cause to suspect they are one drugs, and then the driver must fail a roadside impairment test – which is out of date and not often used.  

My bill will introduce random roadside saliva tests that detect use of cannabis, MDMA and methamphetamine. It will work just like breathalyser tests do. Australia already have these tests and it’s time we did too. This bill isn’t about punishing people for the substances in their system. These tests only pick up very recent use of drugs (in the past few hours) and so only drivers who are actually impaired will be detected.

I hope people will be more wary about the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs. The deaths caused by drug driving are entirely preventable. It’s great that NZTA is taking action through educating people of the risks. I hope to see my Member’s Bill get drawn out of the ballot so the law can be strengthened to better deter and detect drugged drivers.