Police are considering a new report by UK road safety experts TRL
(Transport Research Laboratory), into drug testing drivers. The report, released this week, makes recommendations on the introduction of drug testing drivers in New Zealand.
"We asked TRL to undertake a review in February this year and to provide us with enforcement options to tackle the issue," said National Road Policing Manager, Superintendent Steve Fitzgerald.
"We are now considering the report and its recommendations, "he said.
Police plan to introduce a pilot programme as a first step by June this year. The pilot programme will be based around enhanced Police drug recognition training and awareness.
The current regulations under the Land Transport Act 1998 (section 58) state, "a person commits and offence who drives or attempts to drive a vehicle on the road while under the influence of drink or drugs or both, to such and extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the vehicle."
While there are effective measures available to Police to test blood alcohol levels, there are few reliable, practical options available to police at the roadside to test for drugs.
The police officer must rely on being able to make an accurate assessment of whether the driver is incapable before arresting them and arranging for a Medical Practitioner to conduct a blood test.
The ability to make accurate assessments regarding impairment will be addressed in the new police training while a range of government agencies work together to consider the substantive law changes required to introduce roadside testing options.
"This pilot programme is intended to enhance police awareness of the type of impairment produced by a range of drug groups. It will to provide frontline police officers with practical tools to identify drivers who may not be capable of proper control of the vehicle they are driving and to act as a deterrent to drivers who, up until now have been taking risks with the lives of all road users by driving under the influence of drugs," said Superintendent Fitzgerald.
TRL research in Britain published in 2001 indicated that illicit drug use in fatalities had risen from 3% to 18%.
There is little recent research into drug use and driving in New Zealand but Police estimate up to 16% of drivers killed on the roads may have consumed illegal drugs.
"We will be working with partner agencies and General Practitioners to gauge the most effective way to monitor and deter people from driving while under the influence of drugs. We do not yet have a clear picture of the extent of the issue in New Zealand but it is likely that our figures mirror world trends which indicate that there are also persistent links between criminal behaviour, drug use and traffic offences," said Superintendent Fitzgerald.
For further information contact:
Lesley Wallis â€“ 04 4707111
Steve Fitzgerald â€“ 0274435024