Drug testing for drivers

August 27th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

More than half the drivers taken to hospital after causing a crash were found to have in their system, a study has found.

The Ministry of Transport study used blood samples taken from 453 drivers who caused crashes.

Drugs were detected in the systems of 258 drivers, analysis by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) found.

Of that group, 156 were found to be on drugs not administered by a medical professional

Ninety people sent to hospital had both cannabis and alcohol in their system.

Yesterday, the Automobile Association renewed its calls for random roadside saliva tests to be used to target drug drivers.

I support this.

The data above indicates a much much higher presence of drugs in drivers who have crashed than in the normal population. Now there are issues around drug testing, as the presence doesn’t mean a current impairment (unlike alcohol). But I have long thought that drugged driving is as big an issue as drunk driving – and we need to reduce theĀ prevalenceĀ of both to make our roads safer.

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12 Responses to “Drug testing for drivers”

  1. Mike Wilkinson (71 comments) says:

    Careful, DPF. The article suggests a key reason why these drug tests aren’t used more:

    A government review of the drug testing regime in May concluded the testing devices were not reliable or fast enough to be effective. It ruled the saliva screening takes at least five minutes, is unlikely to detect half of cannabis users, and results are not reliable enough for criminal prosecution.

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  2. boredboy (250 comments) says:

    Reliability could be due to a number of issues that can be resolved including a lack ‘proven’ reliability ie: a lack of data.

    With regards the charge that it is unlikely to detect half of cannabis users, I would say that only a small number of people get pulled over the limit when drink driving or drugged driving anyway. The purpose of the testing is not to catch everyone who takes a drink or a drug before driving but to discourage it. I think a fifty percent chance of being prosecuted if you are pulled over and tested is still a pretty strong disincentive. This is a much bigger a disincntive than the current situation which is that you can be high as a kite and get away scott-free.

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  3. Griff (7,211 comments) says:

    There is no reason to test for cannabis.
    After numerous scientific studies the only thing you can honestly say is smoking pot makes you drive slower
    The influence of cannabis on driving. http://www.erowid.org/plants/cannabis/cannabis_driving6.pdf

    This is just more knee jerk bullshit laws to create crime where there is none.Targeting potheads when the problem is alcohol related

    FFS science not opinion should drive legislation

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  4. Ross Nixon (614 comments) says:

    The data above indicates a much much higher presence of drugs in drivers who have crashed than in the normal population

    Sorry, but I don’t see any reference to the test results of the general (non-hospital crash victim) population. So perhaps David has made an unsupported assumption here. Conceivably, more than half of the general population has traces of drugs in their system also. Has there ever been a random test to determine that?

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  5. my 2 cents (1,091 comments) says:

    I presume the best practice would be for all drivers to be alcohol and drug free when behind a wheel?

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  6. KH (694 comments) says:

    And some years ago there was the guy who pointed out that 50% of those involved in a fatal crash had a criminal conviction. Now an actual criminal conviction is hard to come by. It’s not for parking etc and there are not that many people around who actually have a criminal conviction.
    But the road toll remains ‘broadcast to the wider population. Which is preaching to the converted.
    It may be more useful to target the crims really hard. And that approach may save many more lives.

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  7. kowtow (8,114 comments) says:

    kh

    Did those criminal convictions include “exceeding the speed limit” or other moving offences like failing to stop at stop sign,crossing center line line etc ? That could account for the seemingly high percentage. I’d hazard a guess that a very high proportion of regular drivers have been pinged or ticketed in one of the numerous ACC or other mandated assaults on the motoring public.

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  8. freemark (552 comments) says:

    Exactly, and this is why we must fight like hell any attempt to lower the breath alcohol limit. The vast majority of drivers go through life speeding sometimes, having 3 or 4 beers sometimes, and never hurting or killing anyone. Enough of the wet bus ticket penalties for recidivist crims – crush cars, imprison, castrate, whatever.. and get rid of our Traffic Police fetish with their Victorian counterparts.
    I am fucking sick of the losers & haters in NZ wrecking a decent society.

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  9. Spam (598 comments) says:

    I wonder if the causation is not specifically impairment due to the effects / influence of the drugs, but to the reason that those that take recreational drugs are more likely to be risk takers, and are therefore inherently more risky drivers.

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  10. kowtow (8,114 comments) says:

    Nothing “recreational” about a brain dead stoner getting behind the wheel of a car.

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  11. Griff (7,211 comments) says:

    kowtow
    you are right if as the research says it makes them less at risk than sober it should be compulsory to drive stoned
    Though if you really are brain dead you are dead so it would be illegal to drive as your license would be invalid

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  12. kowtow (8,114 comments) says:

    griff

    Fullstops are useful.

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