POLICE CALL FOR ROADSIDE DRUG TESTING
Nelson police estimate that 10 to 20 percent of the region's fatal road
accidents are linked to the use of illegal drugs.
Road policing manager Inspector Hugh Flower said it was estimated that a
similar percentage of the region's non-fatal road accidents also involved
drivers under the influence of drugs.
Cannabis was thought to be the main culprit as it had been found in blood
tests carried out on accident victims and collected as evidence from crash
sites, Mr Flower said.
There have been calls for a national crackdown on drivers who get behind the
wheel after taking illicit substances.
New Zealand police are considering the introduction of a device that could
detect drugged drivers at roadside testing, similar to that used for
The proposal was announced by the Government in a recent road safety
Mr Flower said he would support the introduction of such a device if it
enabled police to make the region's roads safer.
Police currently had the power to carry out a blood test or order a medical
examination if they suspected a driver was on drugs. But Mr Flower was
unsure how often police actually used this measure.
He said it would depend on an officer's experience and their ability to spot
the physical signs of drug impairment.
"We have to rely on the cop's instincts and their observations at the time.
"I think what's needed is a device so we can roadside test for cannabis or
any other drug. But the technology for that is still a work in progress."
Retired road accident researcher John Bailey said autopsy results on 438 New
Zealand drivers killed in 1995-96 revealed that 21 percent had detectable
cannabis in their blood.
Mr Bailey said police rarely carried out blood tests on suspected drugged
drivers because it cost considerably more to test for cannabis than it did
Nelson Automobile Association chairman Pat Pascoe said he would support the
introduction of a roadside drug-testing device.
Mr Pascoe said the AA had campaigned for the introduction of drug testing as
an alternative to the Government's recently ditched proposal to lower the
"Let's get on to the real cause of it (road accidents) rather than mucking
around with minor things that are going to affect a large number of people
with no gain."