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Surge in public support for roadside drug testing

22 May 2019

Surge in public support for roadside drug testing

Matthew’s Petition seeking the urgent introduction of roadside drug testing has received more than 8000 signatures, with support increasing fourfold since it re-opened last week, Nelson MP Nick Smith says.

“New Zealanders are appalled by the road carnage caused by drivers off their face on drugs, and want urgent action. This surge of 6000 signatures in a week reflects the heartfelt concern for families that have lost loved ones, anger at Parliament’s Speaker for unusually blocking a bill and frustration at Ministers for a lack of progress.”

Matthews Petition was launched by the Dow family on December 31, 2018 – the first anniversary of when Matthew was killed in Nelson by a reckless driver high on meth and cannabis.

The petition was to be presented on May 8 – on what would have been Matthew Dow’s 25th birthday – when it had 1887 signatures. This did not proceed after MP Nick Smith chided the Speaker Trevor Mallard for blocking a bill on the issue resulting in him being suspended from Parliament.

“The petition was re-opened on the 13th of May with the support of the Porteous, and Keene families. Their parents were among the seven killed in New Zealand’s worst-ever road crash in Waverley on the 27th of June 2018 that was earlier this month found to have been caused by a driver high on drugs.

“The Dow, Porteous and Keene families have done an amazing job with this petition. They have shown the 70 lives lost each year caused by drugged drivers are not just statistics, but real people whose families will forever carry the scar of losing a loved on.

“The importance of this petition is the Government has a blind spot on drugged driving due to its wider policies that liberalize access to drugs. Constant pressure will be needed to make progress.

“It was negligent of Ministers to sit on Police and Transport officials’ proposals for roadside drug testing for 17 months. It was only released when the issue blew up and gives no commitment or timeline for having testing introduced.

“This issue costs more than 70 lives a year. It needs the same sort of urgency applied to the Christchurch mosque attack where 51 lives were lost and gun laws were tightened in three weeks.

“We know roadside drug testing works, as it has been successfully implemented in Australia, Canada, and the UK. We know from the experience of introducing random breath testing for alcohol in 1993 that lots of spurious arguments were used in opposing it, but that within five years it reduced fatal crashes from drunk driving by 80 per cent. We also need to heed the experience of Colorado where fatalities from drivers impaired by marijuana increased by 145 per cent following legalisation.

“The petition will be presented to Parliament at 2pm today with 1958 paper signatures and 6061 on the parliamentary petition website, totalling 8019. It will be referred to Select Committee where the petitioners will present.

“The families behind this petition and I are determined to get random roadside drug testing introduced. We will be relentless in our campaign because it will save the lives of hundreds of New Zealanders.”


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