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Action needed on drug-driving, not more talk

The Government’s discussion document on roadside drug testing asks more questions than it answers, and lacks a plan for giving police the tools they need to get drugged drivers off our roads, Nelson MP Nick Smith says.

“The document is very disappointing and doesn’t commit the Government to doing anything to combat the rising threat of drugged drivers. Ministers are kicking the issue to touch by only agreeing to consider changes after consultation.

“Now is the time for action, but this document will simply slow the process down while more New Zealanders lose their lives at the hands of drivers who make bad choices with drugs.

“It would have been much smarter for them to introduce National’s Land Transport Amendment Bill enabling roadside drug testing and then all of their questions would be answered through Select Committee.

“The document ignores the fact there are already successful roadside drug testing programmes operating in Australia, Canada, and the UK. It also states the impairment test will take between 25 and 60 minutes. I have seen information that shows effective testing of this nature elsewhere can be undertaken in under 10 minutes, so I urge officials to look into international evidence and best-practice.

“The importance of a robust system of roadside drug testing is all the more important now with the Government’s current push to liberalise drug laws. Roadside drug testing needs to be in place before legislative changes that effectively decriminalise the possession of all classes of drugs, and the legalisation of cannabis being put to referendum takes effect.

“This shows the Greens are in the driver’s seat when it comes to the Government’s policy on drugs. Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter has previously stated she was ‘unimpressed’ with officials’ recommendations on roadside testing, that the saliva testing was “too intrusive” and that the current unscientific test used by police was perfectly adequate.

“I will be working with the Dow, Porteous and Keene families, and others affected by drug-impaired driving to get as many positive submissions as possible and to push for faster progress on this issue that is costing the lives of so many New Zealanders.

“National believes we should get straight on and change the law. Parliament needs to show the same commitment and urgency to get drugged drivers off our roads that it did in getting rid of military-style semi-automatic guns.”

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