RTF calls for roadside drug testing

In News5 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineFebruary 26, 2021

Driving under the influence of drugs is a deliberate act and should be treated accordingly in law.

Statistics show that drivers impaired by drugs are causing harm and death on our roads; more deaths than drunk drivers. We need to get those drugged drivers off the road as soon as possible and hold them accountable for their willful disregard of the lives of others.

The Road Transport Forum has lodged its submission on the Land Transport (Drug Driving) Amendment Bill, fully supporting the establishment of a new random roadside oral fluid testing regime to sit alongside the current compulsory impairment test (CIT) approach to drug driving. We agree that addressing drug driving is essential to reduce road trauma and make our roads safer.

While the time it has taken for a testing regime to come about is frustrating, the legislation introduced in 2020 should be in place this year. It will finally give police the power to conduct random roadside saliva-based testing of drivers they suspect are impaired by the influence of drugs. This is capacity police in many other jurisdictions already have.

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.

Drug impaired drivers on public roads present significant risk to commercial drivers, as well as all others on the road. While businesses can mitigate their own health and safety risks, they cannot mitigate the randomness of drugged drivers on public roads.

Commercial truck drivers are drug tested pre-employment, randomly during their employment, and post any kind of incident during their work time.

The RTF believes other drivers should also have this scrutiny to ensure better road safety in New Zealand and meet the goals of the Government‘s Road to Zero strategy and action plan.

In this current climate there is a tendency to be overly concerned about the rights of drugged drivers. We contend that those rights must not be at the expense of the rights of those they maim and kill. So, while we support a harm minimisation approach to drug driving, this should not be at the expense of taking the offences seriously.

Harm minimisation will require adequate funds to cover drug education and rehabilitation programmes and we have yet to see evidence of this in New Zealand. In fact, drug rehabilitation is woefully under-funded.

Our submission comments on a couple of the processes outlined in the Bill which we think are confusing. These include:

  • If there are to be two consecutive oral fluid tests, as outlined, the reasons need to be explicit. We can‘t see any reason for this and we believe there should be one test, consistent with the drink driving testing regime.

  • The process around which tool for police to use is confusing. We believe the police officer should have all the tools at their disposal to test for drugs and not be restricted to a process that excludes CIT or oral testing if one is done before the other. These leave too many loopholes.

We also believe to provide adequate statistical analysis around the true harm caused by drug use on New Zealand roads, that drivers involved in crashes should always be tested for drugs, whether or not they are injured, and if they are deceased as part of the autopsy process. This is an area of data gathering that is currently not robust because if the presence of alcohol is obvious, the drivers are not then necessarily tested for drugs.

Overall, we believe the Government should just get on and make this Bill law.

 You can read our submission here.