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Tougher penalties on people driving while drug-impaired


Te Whanganui-a-Tara – People driving while drug-impaired face new infringements and tougher penalties  under the Land Transport (Drug Driving) Amendment Act which have come into effect.

For the first time, drugs that impair the ability to drive safely have been ring-fenced by law and drug concentration levels introduced that enable additional enforcement measures and penalties.

This is a significant step against reducing the harm caused on roads by drug driving, police say.

Data collected from fatal crashes highlights the presence of impairing drugs in a driver’s blood is now generally about equal to alcohol which has more than doubled since 2015.

There were 93 people killed in crashes in 2021 where a driver was found to have the presence of drugs – that is nearly a third of all fatalities that year.

Police are ready to enforce the new laws and will continue to use current practice to identify drivers using drugs by carrying out compulsory impairment tests (CIT.) If a driver fails this test, they would 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

 Police undertook a procurement process to identify a suitable oral fluid testing device to carry out random roadside drug driving testing.

After rigorous testing, 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 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.