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'Drugged driver' study meaningless and risky

22 January, 2004

'Drugged driver' study meaningless and risky

Green MP Nandor Tanczos said today that plans by police to trial driver drug-testing were both ill-conceived and unworkable.

The Waikato Times reported this afternoon that police will commence a trial by June to test drivers for drugs at checkpoints in regions where they consider a problem exists of people driving under the influence of drugs. People identified as driving under the influence of drugs would be charged.

"The Greens support driver impairment testing for alcohol and other drugs such as cannabis," said Nandor, the Green spokesperson for Drug Policy. "However, the police obviously haven't thought this issue through well enough.

"Any result of the study would be meaningless as police don't currently have the technology to test whether a driver is impaired by cannabis.

"Superintendent Steve Fitzgerald admitted police have little evidence that this problem actually exists in New Zealand and was relying on anecdotal information - yet they're prepared to go ahead with trials even though their method of testing will be totally subjective and will be hard to prove in court.

"The police haven't even worked out what threshold should be set to determine if a driver was 'incapable of having proper control', as the traffic law states.

"Drug tests currently available can only prove if someone has used cannabis at some point in the past, and there is nothing to indicate if a driver was actually impaired at the time they were stopped."

Nandor said he supported keeping impaired drivers off the road but would resist any attempts by the police to use the trial to charge people with other cannabis offences.

"I will be seeking an assurance from the Minister of Police that they will not be using this trial to conduct 'fishing expeditions' for cannabis possession," said Nandor.


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