Police will be given new powers to conduct random roadside oral fluid drug testing to deter, detect and prosecute drugged drivers in order to save lives, Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter announced today.
“Last year 95 people were killed in preventable crashes where the driver was found to have drugs in their system that could impair driving. That is an enormous and intolerable loss of life,” said Julie Anne Genter.
“The new powers will send a clear message that if you take drugs and drive, you will be caught.
“The change will allow Police to test drivers for the presence of drugs and impairing medication anywhere, any time, just as they can for alcohol.
“Drivers who test positive for the presence of drugs will be fined and immediately suspended from driving for a minimum of 12 hours.
“Drivers will also face criminal penalties if they fail a compulsory impairment test and blood tests confirm impairing levels of drugs in their system.
“The threshold for a criminal offence will be aligned with that for alcohol. This means a blood test that identifies impairing medication or drugs at or above an amount equivalent to the criminal drink driving limit (80mg of alcohol to 100ml of blood) will result in a criminal offence.
“The oral fluid devices will initially test for THC, methamphetamine, opiates, cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy), and benzodiazepines which are the most prevalent and high risk drugs and medications used by drivers in New Zealand. Police will continue to use the compulsory impairment test to screen for other impairing drugs.
“Oral fluid tests will check for some impairing prescription drugs. However, a medical defence will be available in instances where people have taken medication in accordance with their prescription. The government will work with health practitioners to ensure patients are appropriately warned if they should not be driving on their prescription.
“I intend to introduce a Bill to the Parliament early next year to enable oral fluid drug testing to begin in 2021,” says Julie Anne Genter.