Government passes drugged driving law - RePress


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Friday, June 26

Government passes drugged driving law

Parliament has today passed legislation to give Police greater powers to crack down on people driving under the influence of drugs.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce says drugged driving is a serious threat on our roads and the Land Transport Amendment Bill (no. 4) is the first step towards getting them off the roads.

"People who drive when their judgement and reactions are impaired by drugs are a danger to themselves and others," Mr Joyce said.

"Combating drugged driving is a high priority for this government. I am very pleased to bring this Bill, which has been in the House since 2007, through into law.

"This legislation will make it easier to gather evidence and get convictions. Penalties will be the same as for drink driving."

A recent Massey University study showed that a large proportion of frequent drug users had driven under the influence of a drug and that they had driven in a risky manner.

It is already an offence under the Land Transport Act to drive while incapable of proper control due to alcohol or drugs. But the existing offence can be difficult to enforce. This legislation will make it easier for Police to show whether a driver presents a road safety risk or not.

"Under this legislation, a Police officer who suspects a driver of being impaired can require the driver to carry out a Compulsory Impairment Test. A driver who does not satisfactorily complete this test will be required to provide a blood specimen."

If the blood specimen shows the presence of a controlled drug or prescription medicine, the person may be charged with the new offence of driving while impaired. The penalties for this new offence are aligned with the penalties for drink driving.

Following concerns raised on Monday about the handling of Benzodiazepines in the legislation, the Minister has asked officials to investigate whether a further amendment is required to specifically provide for their inclusion.

"It's unfortunate that this issue was raised with me only after the committee stage was completed," says Mr Joyce.

"I have officials working on this now as a matter of priority. If their advice supports the specific inclusion of benzodiazepines I will write to all political parties asking for their support for a special amendment, to that affect, before the legislation comes into force."

Mr Joyce says the legislation is a significant step towards making our roads safer.

The provisions concerning drug impaired driving will come into force no later than 1 December 2009.

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