Roadside screening tests to help get drug drivers off the road
The Government is changing the roadside drug testing regime to ensure Police have the right tools to get dangerous drug-impaired drivers off the road, Ministers Damien O’Connor and Ginny Andersen have announced.
“The Government is committed to keeping our roads safe and that’s why we’ve agreed to make amendments to the roadside testing regime to ensure Police have the resources they need to keep the public safe.
“Police can already conduct compulsory impairment tests on drivers they have good cause to suspect have used drugs. Under this new approach, positive saliva tests will be sent to the lab for evidential testing before an infringement notice is issued. Drivers who have two positive screening tests will be banned from driving for 12 hours.
“The introduction of roadside screening tests is a sensible, practical move that will detect qualifying drugs and help remove impaired drivers from behind the wheel.”
Police and Justice Minister Ginny Andersen acknowledges Police have not been able to roll-out the current regime and says these changes will ensure that roadside drug testing can go ahead as originally intended.
“Each year Police send around 500 blood samples to the lab following roadside compulsory impairment tests. Roadside screening tests will complement that existing process and will mean that Police will be able to drug test more drivers,” Ginny Andersen said.
“Even though roadside testing wasn’t rolled out in March, since then Police have had new powers to deter impaired driving on our roads, including new criminal and infringement offences that aligned with the risk that impaired driving poses.
“These amendments also introduce a new offence for people who refuse an oral fluid screening test, punishable by an infringement fee of $400 and 75 demerit points.
“Road safety is a priority, and we are committed to reducing the devastating harm we see on our roads,” said Ginny Andersen.
Notes to Editor:
Cabinet has agreed amendments to the oral fluid testing provisions in the Land Transport Act 1998. These amendments are currently being drafted and will be introduced later this year. There will be a select committee process where interested people will be able to provide feedback on the amendments.
The amendments will then go through a second and third reading.
It is expected that there will be a 12 month period before the amendments are in force, to allow Police to undertake a robust procurement process for the roadside oral screening devices and labs for testing oral fluid samples.
The difference between testing and screening
The original intention was to use devices as a roadside testing tool, a device that detects qualifying drug above a threshold that indicates recent use, and allow the issuing of roadside infringements. This is similar to how alcohol breath testing is run in New Zealand.
Roadside screening will use the devices to detect the presence of a qualifying drug. Once a drug is detected, an oral fluid sample will be sent to a lab for detailed analysis. It’s after this analysis that recent use can be determined and an infringement issued.
The qualifying drugs that will be screened at the roadside and tested in the laboratory will be specified in a notice. The drugs include potentially impairing illicit and prescription drugs that were listed in the Act after advice from an independent expert panel, based on New Zealand data linking road crashes with the presence of the drugs in the drivers’ blood samples.
Existing tools for Police
Police are currently able to conduct roadside Compulsory Impairment Tests on drivers they have good cause to suspect have consumed drugs. These are behavioural tests, undertaken by a specially trained police officer.
Police have 1,052 dedicated road policing staff and there are 2,570 frontline responders trained to administer the compulsory impairment test. The test comprises eye, walk and turn and one-leg stand assessments. Drivers that fail these tests are required to provide a blood sample for analysis. More information on the CIT process can be found at this page: https://www.police.govt.nz/advice-services/driving-and-road-safety/being-safe-road-rules-and-reasons