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Is it safe to drive stoned next week or not?

Candor Trust Press Release

Is it safe to drive stoned next week or not?

ACC should rethink if they plan to decorate NZ?s new drug test capable "booze buses" with bold anti drink driving livery alone. That could exacerbate the drug driving epidemic by communicating an offer of immunity to high risk offenders.

Police National Manager for Road Policing, Paula Rose said yesterday that for the first time in New Zealand, the buses will enable Police to test and process drugged drivers, but ACC?s injury prevention manager Phil Wright sent a mixed message in saying that drivers will be left in no doubt about what the buses are about.

He said this because ACC, which is painting the buses, is apparently just concerned by the amount of injury caused by Drink Drivers. So where does ACC stand on drug driving? Could it be nowhere, even given that they ran a sidelined International drug driving conference in 2005.

ACC?s drug blind spiel as reported by the NZ Herald, now 3 years on, sends a mixed message, coupled as it was in the same news release in which Police historically expressed a serious and much needed interest in using the drug testing capability given by the buses.

"Why would we spend $236,000 each on two buses if they could not better address the real issue making our youth toll spectacularly high by International comparison - that issue is thankfully no longer drink driving for teen drivers" say Candor Trust emphatically.

Drink at risky illicit levels is found in roughly 10% of dead teen drivers (half the frequency seen in the USA). The statistics denote a job well done, but it?s not yet time to pop the champagne corks. The outsta\nding successs reducing teen drink driving to minimal levels has been completely offset by the harm coming from drug driving.

Illicit drugs in contrast todicey blood alcohol levels were found to be present at risky levels in at least a third of youth killed in road crashes over the last 3 years - with over 70% culpability ratings (Vergara, Waikato University).

Drug driving is the leading causal factor of the leading cause of untimely death and serious disability for teenagers in NZ - road crash trauma. A tragic fact that should not surprise, given that Candors roadside drug testing survey identified that 50% of young drug drivers admit to having flown through checkpoints while at the wheel stoned..

Perhaps the conflict in intended or foreseeable usages of the buses (evident in the sole drink drive livery apparently ordered) is due simply to ACC owning the buses, not Police. "We think both agencies should be singing the same tune - and that the Police are on track" say Candor.

It seems that if ACC gets it?s way and plasters the buses exterior with only messages about getting plastered, then drug drivers may get caught unawares at some later date by two vehicles that really are Trojan Horses.

Perhaps the plan for vaguely misleading livery to be showcased on the buses next week belies a covert operation, and the idea is to both deter and catch drink drivers. But not to deter, only to catch the drug drivers - using a bit of stealth. Hope springs eternal.

The only alternative to this scenario conjured up by the Polices Press Release must be that the facilities in these new buses are to be wasted, and drug drivers will remain as checkpoint Houdinis. And they will not be apprehended, despite ACC / Police having high tech buses that could save lives standing by -often times uselessly.

Candor hopes that taxpayers will not be paying for two paint jobs, one to suit the current half baked approach to impaired driving offending - and then a makeover of the booze bus livery once drug driving ceases being a football.

But then the cost of a wasted paint-job pales in comparison to the huge cost and pain that unbridled drug driving produces. May the coalition quibbling stop, so that checkpoints can cease being leaky sieves sooner than later.

And may ACC desist from broadcasting half truths with a vengeance. That blinkered behaviour is what kills young people - so drink driver phobic have we made them, they frequently now designate the stoned mate as driver.

Absence of youth problem specific warnings booze bus livery implies tacit approval of a common offence. One those involved fail to recognise the dangers of. The Trust asks road safety concerned people to protest sole drink testing.


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