Drivers caught high on drugs
More than 50 people have been caught drug-driving in the region since a law change made it illegal for drivers to get behind the wheel under the influence of banned substances.
Figures released to the Manawatu Standard under the Official Information Act show cannabis was the drug of choice in the central policing district and around New Zealand.
In the Central District, which includes Manawatu and stretches from Southern Hawke's Bay to Horowhenua and Taranaki, 55 drugged-drivers have been caught since anti drug-driving laws were introduced in November 2009.
Every driver in the district ordered to undergo an impairment test failed, with cannabis found in the system of 39 drivers. Nationally, 669 drivers were tested for drugs and 558 failed. Cannabis was found to have impaired 377 drivers, while more than 100 had taken stimulants.
Driving under the influence of drugs carries similar punishments to drink-driving. Any driver convicted of drugged-driving faces a disqualification of at least six months and potential three months' jail.
Police can make any driver they suspect of being under the influence of drugs undergo a compulsory impairment test which looks at signs of drug-taking, such as pupil dilation and lack of co-ordination. Included in the test are a “walk and turn test” and making the suspected drugged-driver stand on one leg.
Drivers who fail then have a blood test, which can lead to charges.
Senior Sergeant Nick Dobson, who heads the Traffic Alcohol Group (TAG), said the drugged-driving figures wouldn't include motorists who were also drink-driving.
Police would conduct breath-alcohol tests if they suspected a driver was impaired. Only if there was no alcohol would the drugged-driving procedure begin, Mr Dobson said. Drugs could stay in someone's system for a long time, whereas alcohol left the body in 12 to 24 hours.
“A person who's affected by drugs is unable to properly control their motor vehicle. They're unsafe behind the wheel. That's an internationally recognised fact,” Mr Dobson said.
The law was reviewed by the Government, which announced in May that it was working well and would stay. “Over 500 drivers have tested positive for at least one drug in the two years since the regime began," Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges said. "The law is helping take these people off the roads, and reducing the risk they pose to themselves and other road users.”
- © Fairfax NZ News
Do you agree with increased oil exploration?