Drug testing needed to reduce our road toll
by Mike Isle
Unfortunately, road safety remains a significant issue that takes up a considerable amount of police attention in the Selwyn region.
Our region has in recent years had an unacceptably high rate of crashes, particularly at intersections.
Anything that we can do to reduce both our local and our national crash rate should be encouraged.
One way of approaching the problem is to look at the reasons for fatal crashes and see what we can do to minimise or eliminate the risks.
Last year, 79 fatal crashes involved a driver with drugs in their system, compared with 70 involving an intoxicated driver.
These figures come from testing that is done by authorities following a fatal crash and show that we need to get more proactive in preventing people from driving while under the influence of drugs.
Currently, under the Land Transport Act, drug driving is measured by an impairment test that involves an eye assessment and requesting a driver walk heel to toe in a straight line. The current method has some obvious limitations.
Advances in drug testing technology over recent years including saliva and sweat tests have made roadside testing for drugs much more practical.
Based on this, my colleague Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott submitted a members’ bill, which would have allowed police officers to perform roadside drug testing on any driver who they suspected was driving under the influence of drugs.
Disappointingly all three parties in the coalition government voted against this members’ bill, despite police minister Stuart Nash previously acknowledging the need to roll out new technology to combat the danger posed by drugged drivers.
The voting down of a members’ bill which would have kept our roads safer and saved lives is incomprehensible. If the government saw some way to improve the bill the least they could have done was to send it to select committee for consideration and feedback.