Government receives roadside drug-testing petition

A petition asking for roadside drug-testing has been introduced to Parliament.

Karen Dow's son was killed by a drug driver and Nick Smith accepted her petition to Parliament on Wednesday, alongside fellow National Party MPs.

Smith was later named and suspended from Parliament for 24 hours after seeking leave to table a Bill on roadside testing, and then lashing out at speaker Trevor Mallard when it was declined.

Matthew Dow was killed in a head-on crash near Richmond on December 31, 2017. The other driver in the crash, Alicia Fulcher-Poole, was found to be smoking meth and cannabis before the crash.

"I commend Karen Dow on her brave advocacy in memory of her son Matthew who would be celebrating his 25th birthday today were it not for the reckless actions of a drugged driver," Smith said in a statement.

The Automobile Association is supporting the call, saying it's an issue that people aren't always aware of.

"While people have a lot of awareness about alcohol and drunk driving crashes, people haven't been anywhere near as conscious of the risks from drug impaired driving," spokesperson Dylan Thomsen said.

Thomsen said people need to be better educated about the issue, as it's not just illegal drugs that can impair driving, but also some prescription medicines.

He wants to see a Government paper on the issue.

"We've been waiting for a Government paper to come out looking at the issue of drugs and driving, that was due a little while ago now and still hasn't come out."

Smith said the Government was asleep at the wheel on roadside testing, with Associate Minister for Transport Julie Anne Genter opposed due to her party's position on drugs, and Police Minister Stuart Nash silent on the issue.

"Nash has promised action but is yet to deliver on the promise he made to TVNZ at the petition's launch last year that a discussion document on the issue had been approved by Cabinet and would go out to the public in early 2019."

The Government voted down a Bill to introduce random roadside testing for drugs in October 2018, with Phil Twyford saying it would be inefficient.

He told NZME it would take between three and five minutes for tests to be conducted and he was working on something better with Nash and Genter.

"We are confident... that they will come up with something that is comprehensive and effective, unlike this Bill."

Genter told RNZ in February 2018 she is not in favour of roadside testing, calling it "intrusive" and expensive.

"I have some concerns around the roadside saliva testing - it's extremely expensive, it's around $30 or $40 a test.

"We already have an extremely effective impairment test which is over 90 percent effective usually backed up by 100 percent accurate blood tests."

Police can currently conduct a roadside impairment test, which involves testing coordination, if they believe somebody is under the influence of drugs.

Failed tests are then followed up by a blood test. RNZ reported in 2018 94 percent of drivers who failed the impairment test had drugs in their system.


Contact Newshub with your story tips: