Govt announces changes to roadside drug testing regime

In News2 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineAugust 25, 2023

The Government has announced changes to the roadside drug testing regime to ensure Police have the right tools to get dangerous drug-impaired drivers off the road.

Police can already conduct compulsory impairment tests on drivers they have good cause to suspect have used drugs.

The new approach will see positive saliva tests sent to the lab for evidential testing before an infringement notice is issued. Drivers who have two positive screening tests will be banned from driving for 12 hours.

Random oral roadside drug testing was scheduled to begin back in March 2023, but was indefinitely deferred by the Government after Police advised sufficiently accurate saliva tests didn’t exist.

Police and Justice Minister Ginny Andersen acknowledged Police have not been able to roll-out the current regime and says these changes will ensure that roadside drug testing can go ahead as originally intended.

“Each year Police send around 500 blood samples to the lab following roadside compulsory impairment tests. Roadside screening tests will complement that existing process and will mean that Police will be able to drug test more drivers,” Andersen said.

“Even though roadside testing wasn’t rolled out in March, since then Police have had new powers to deter impaired driving on our roads, including new criminal and infringement offences that aligned with the risk that impaired driving poses.”

The amendments also introduce a new offence for people who refuse an oral fluid screening test, punishable by an infringement fee of $400 and 75 demerit points.

Ia Ara Aoteara Transporting New Zealand said it supports the changes to the regime, and said a practical fix to the roadside drug testing regime was well overdue.

“For commercial drivers, including truck drivers, New Zealand’s public roads are their workplaces. They share these roads with members of the public who may not have the driving hours, skills, or drug-testing regimes that professional drivers have,” said Transporting New Zealand Interim chief executive Dom Kalasih.

“While businesses can mitigate their own health and safety risks, they cannot mitigate the randomness of drugged drivers on public roads.”