Drug Driving

May 11th, 2009 at 12:30 pm by David Farrar

Trevor Mallard at Red Alert is seeking feedback on two issues:

  1. If someone fails a breath test then all action related to driving while impaired with ceases.  The evidence the committee got made it very clear that using booze and other together had a multiplicitive effect when it came to having accidents. In an extreme case an offender would get a lesser penalty by having a quick drink when stopped at a checkpoint while high on “P”. Doesn’t seem right to me. My view is that where someone is clearly more impaired than they should be with a given breath test reading then the Police should have the right to move down the drug testing route as well.
  2. When someone is hospitalised then blood taken can be used for a drink but not a drug drive charge. In my opinion anyone who has active class A drugs in their system should be prosecuted – even if they have had an accident where they have been hospitalised.

I’ve personally long been an advocate for greater scrutiny of drug driving, not just drunk driving.

However I understand that one of the real challenges is that drugs stay in your body a lot longer than alcohol, and long after it impairs you. I’m not sure if we want people charged if they drive a car two weeks after they had a joint?

Trevor though is talking Class Drugs such as ‘P”. The schedule of Class A drugs is here. It even includes Thalidomide!

Again though – how long does Cocaine effect someone and how long does it stay in the body? Is it fair to face extra charges for having taken coke two weeks before you crash the car? Some will say yes, as coke (unlike alcohol) is illegal.

Also Trevor’s proposal does not seem to be suggesting random drug testing – only for those who have failed a breath test and/or caused a crash and been hospitalised.

Overall I would tend to be in favour of the proposals, but open to arguments against.

Tags: , ,

15 Responses to “Drug Driving”

  1. ben (2,279 comments) says:

    One way to think about the question is whether you are more concerned about being taken out by a drugged driving or the possibility that government will take the additional powers you are proposing and misuse them in ways nobody (including Trevor) can anticipate, in exchange for a reduction in the already very small risk a drugged driver will take you out.

    Status quo please.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  2. Ratbiter (1,265 comments) says:

    Is a roadside drug test available that gives immediate results? There is probably not a lot to gain from taking the samples and sending people on their way, only to discover 3 days later when the results come back that yes, driver A was on drugs.

    NOT driving your car, and NOT taking P or coke are options that are always available to you.

    If you chose to say “f*ck you I don’t care if you die!” to your fellow citizens by taking your car out among them after taking mind-altering substances, then you’ve chosen to do a lot of non-compulsory things. So if you fail a standard drug test, then YOU convince ME that your drugs are 2 weeks old, and of no risk to anyone. Or maybe you could just NOT TAKE THE DRUGS IN THE FIRST PLACE, YOU DROPKICK????

    Remember, I am more interested in my right to NOT be run over by some druggie driver, than in your right to take recreational drugs unmolested by the cops!

    (PS: I got pulled over for a random child restraint check the other day. Had to wait on the roadside for about 3 minutes feeling like a criminal before a cop finally troubled herself to come and tell me what it was all about. Then she looked in the back for maybe 5 seconds before sending me on my way (there was no child in the child restraint, therefore no problem! Oh and it was my bosses’ car and child seat, too…)

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  3. Pat (76 comments) says:

    So far so good on their new blog. If they continue to allow dissenting posts/opinions and you can converse directly with MP’s rather than closet staffers, then the Standard may become a backwater on the left side of the blogosphere.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  4. MikeE (439 comments) says:

    I’d be willing to wager that driving while under the influence of tiredness is far more likely to cause harm than the drugs Trevor is suggesting testing for the presence (as opposed to impairment) of.

    Vote: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  5. senzafine (457 comments) says:

    One way to think about the question is whether you are more concerned about being taken out by a drugged driving or the possibility that government will take the additional powers you are proposing and misuse them in ways nobody (including Trevor) can anticipate, in exchange for a reduction in the already very small risk a drugged driver will take you out.

    Small risk? Can you quantify that? What level of testing currently exists to be able to even identify the level of risk?

    Personal experience tells me otherwise.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  6. lofty (1,317 comments) says:

    As much as it sticks in my craw, the bully is right to question this.

    Common sense dictates that if a person can kill someone with a knife, gun etc while on a “P fuelled rampage” as is often reported in the media, they can certainly use a motor vehicle as weapon, while under the same influence, and I would not like to see any member of my family & friends, become a victim, or anyone else for that matter, even the bully!.
    The residual effect is something I know little about, how is that countered in testing?

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  7. PaulL (5,449 comments) says:

    I’m in favour of it in concept. There is no reason that someone under the influence of drugs shouldn’t be liable for prosecution for driving. The devil though, is in the detail. With alcohol we have some idea of the threshold at which impairment becomes significant, and a test that can measure that. With drugs, we would need to work out a threshold. Presumably whilst the drugs remain in your system, the thing that matters for impairment is the level in the blood – so for a given blood – drug level, you have a given level of impairment.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  8. Alan Wilkinson (1,933 comments) says:

    Impairment should be measured directly instead of being inferred from blood tests when the effects on an individual of various combinations can never be known with any accuracy.

    It is the impairment that matters – from any cause – not blood or breath composition.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  9. Murray M (430 comments) says:

    It really used to piss me off watching junkies sucking back enough methadone to kill be 2 to 10 times over and then promptly diving behind the wheel and driving off. But I have to be responsible with alcohol.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  10. lilman (973 comments) says:

    Nice that he is in opposition for 6 or so month and now he wants feedback, pity he counldnt consider it when he was in government for 9 years.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  11. PaulL (5,449 comments) says:

    Well, when in opposition you have some time to form policies. Yes, it’d be nice if it had been done before, but unless you’re suggesting that he should sit back and have a holiday for the next three years, because any idea he comes up with automatically should have been done last year, then I think this is legit. I’m paying his salary (at least indirectly) and I’m happy that he’s doing something useful and constructive with what I’m paying for.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  12. burt (7,425 comments) says:

    I think Trevor opens up a good debate here.

    Although why stop at alcohol & drugs. We could be testing for various psychological conditions, tirdness, fatigue, anger etc.

    I saw Trevor looking about as bushed as I was feeling near the end of the Karapoti classic this year. I jumped in a car and drove home and Trevor probably did as well. How was his/my concentration at the end of that amount of exertion? How would either of us coped with a situation where fast reflexes made the difference between life and death? How much more likely were we to fall asleep on the way home compared with on the way to the ride?

    Oh and let us not forget that fighter pilots in war time were given “speed” to increase their awareness and enhance thier reactions and stop them loosing concentration on the task at hand. Perhaps tired looking drivers should be encouraged to take meth to keep them awake rather than coffee?

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  13. Sandy (44 comments) says:

    I do not think it is fair to prosecute someone a a road fiend if they weren’t on balance likely impaired. Just do them on drug possession charges if the blood is positive but impairment is dubious. That said there has been no problem defining iompairment based on drug blood levels overseas. They pick out the target drugs for road safety – typically pot, P/ecstasy etc, benzo tranquillisers not taken as prescribed or when prescribed, and heroin. The Federal Motor Carriers Union abides by Federal laws in the US to drug test truckers and has limits set based on science, as do many countries that now police drug impaired driving. Zero tolerance is just unworkable – as with alcohol too many people use or abuse drugs. To ignore this would result in mass unemployment, and cut down congestion – if we tried ridding roads of drug users rather than abusers. Alcohol is only half the problem and I believe fatigue is common in this day and age, putting the existing risk courted by drink and drug drivers in a higher bracket than in the past. We don’t just need daytime headlight running but should stay on the horn to keep a lot of these daredevil characters at attention, behind their wheel of fortune. After all Judges keep throwing them back in the pond.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  14. Sandy (44 comments) says:

    Re post 1 – after a quick investigation the risk over a lifetime that a drug impaired driver will kill you is 1 in 350 Kiwis, versus about 1 in 300 a drunk driver does you in.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  15. Trevor Mallard (248 comments) says:

    Just to make it clear to those who aren’t part of the debate on Red Alert -we are talking about active drugs in the bloodstream not remnants in urine which in some cases came return +ve tests for weeks after they become inactive.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote