Southern drivers have one of the highest rates of
drug-driving in the country.
Figures released under the Official Information Act show 1001
motorists have been charged with drug-driving offences in New
Zealand between November 2009 and September 2013.
Of that number, 80 motorists in Otago and Southland were
charged with drug-driving - the highest in the South Island
and well ahead of Canterbury (50) and Tasman (42).
Of the 12 police districts, Southern recorded the fifth
highest drug-driving rate behind Bay of Plenty (184),
Northland (110), Waitemata (125), Central (109).
Southern District ranked ahead of larger metropolitan centres
including Auckland (68), Wellington (74), and
Road policing national manager Carey Griffiths said the
figures took into account two charges, under the old and new
legislation, which came into effect on November 1, 2009.
If an officer suspects a driver is under the influence of
drugs, they may be asked to do a compulsory impairment test.
That includes an eye assessment, a walk and turn assessment,
and a one leg stand assessment.
An unsatisfactory test would lead to the driver being asked
to provide a blood specimen for laboratory analysis.
Penalties for drug-driving are similar to drink-driving.
Those convicted face up to three months in prison or a fine
of up to $4500, and are disqualified from holding or
obtaining a driver licence for at least six months.
A Cabinet paper two years after the introduction of the new
regime noted it was ''working well''. The most common drug
detected was cannabis, followed by stimulants such as
amphetamines and methamphetamine.
The paper noted detectable levels of some drugs in blood
might persist after impairment has worn off.
''This makes it very difficult to determine where to set
legal driving limits for a number of drugs that are related
to known crash risk or levels of impairment as is the case
The paper also noted New Zealand would also not move to a
random roadside testing regime, until issues associated with
saliva-based devices had been resolved.
Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party deputy leader Abe Gray said
if police wanted to bloodtest a driver then ''they can
basically say you have failed'' the compulsory impairment
That could potentially pose a problem for anyone who might
have inhaled second-hand cannabis smoke at a party, he said.
To alleviate this risk authorities could look at introducing
minimum levels so anyone found with trace levels in their
system was not deemed to be driving while impaired.
''With the way the law is, any person who is a regular
cannabis user will be driving with a trace level in their
system, so at any time an officer pulls them over and thinks
they have failed the [impairment] test then they are going to