Survey - Does NZ have highest drugged drivers
Monday, 24 September 2007
Press Release: Candor Trust
Provisional results of a Candor Trust road side survey of 200 Kapiti Coast and Hutt Valley drivers, completed on Monday, found 1 in 6 of the drivers were affected by the recent use of recreational drugs or tranquillisers.
This rate compares poorly even to recent findings of 1 driver in 10 under influence of illicits in the worst affected area of Western Australia - Newcastle, and has serious implications for road safety.
The drivers from a random sample stopping for gas or groceries were all drug tested using a saliva drug test.
Drivers were curious to try the tests which normally cost $25 and detect thc, opiates and P. Some of the drug drivers expressed having bizarre ideas about their driving "abilities," of an ilk that could land them in metal coffins. One subject, with a "girl next door" appearance who drove a sporty model revealed that she challenges herself to make it from Wellington to the Upper Hutt turn off in 10 minutes, just for fun when on P. She's come close.
Families should not have to share roads with people who genuinely believe red light running is safe for them due to heightened perception, or some drug related psychic ability, say Candor.
Also of major concern was the fact that a couple of drug users said they'd driven after a week wide awake.
Most drug drivers interviewed also reported breezing through checkpoints, whilst being noticeably drug affected. When an erratic driver passes an alcohol breathalyser test, Police can only proceed with road side fitness tests like "walking the white line" if the person they've got reservations about agrees. When they don't agree, the person is free to drive away, unless they've committed an arrestable offence (apart from impaired driving). The same goes for checkpoints, drug users are immune. This "stepping aside" is dangerous and tantamount to pulling the pin on a live grenade, say Candor. While mates and Police don't let people drive drunk, drug impairment is clearly OK and the taboo around it's discussion continues.
The situation of Police's dependency on drug drivers to "give themselves up" likely explains why the ESR's drug driving study showed 1/2 the young drivers to die in the year to June 2005 were drugged.
The Land Transport Amendment Bill if passed would give Police the powers they need to bring drug driving charges, by making refusal to partake in drug impairment testing as illegal as evading alcohol screening.
Candor is happy Mrs King has quietly worked away at bringing Labour's Bill forward, which aims to fix loopholes in the current law in line with other Countries. However, possible stalling of the Bills progress by the Pharmaceutical lobby is seen as a filthy ploy.
The UK is heeding best evidence in putting this whole issue ahead of lower blood alcohol limits, since there's far more to be gained in toll reductions. Type specifications for drug testing gear are going out to UK tenders this month.
An overwhealming majority of survey participants considered that drug driving is a significant problem that needs attention. Support also came from many introspective drug users, as they'd "seen the results". "We're saddened by the result, our roads being awash with drugs help to explain why our road safety statistics make us the road safety ghetto of the OECD" says Trust Co-ordinatort Rachael Ford.
"If Police want to save lives they will accept the Green's drug driving bill clause disallowing blood evidence to be used under the M.D.A - our survey subjects said Police are soft on drug driving, we think that is more serious than possession."
"The question is what are our drug laws trying to achieve; harm minimisation or not?"
The full survey report and statistical analyses will be available from the Candor Trust within a few weeks.
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