More fa­tal crashes in­volve drugs than al­co­hol: AA study

Otago Daily Times - - GENERAL -

WELLING­TON: Drugged driv­ers cause more fa­tal crashes than drink­ing driv­ers, a new study has found.

The Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion (AA) study found 79 driv­ers in­volved in fa­tal crashes last year tested pos­i­tive for drugs, com­pared with 70 who were above the le­gal al­co­hol limit or re­fused to be tested.

This is a huge leap from the 14 crashes in 2013 that in­volved drug­im­paired driv­ers, com­pared with 53 who were in­tox­i­cated or avoided tests.

The 2017 find­ings are thought to be the first time that drugs have over­taken al­co­hol in this statistic. Some driv­ers will have tested pos­i­tive for both drugs and al­co­hol.

The study in­cluded driv­ers who had taken pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tions above rec­om­mended lev­els, or drugs known to im­pair driv­ing.

The two most com­monly de­tected drugs, ex­clud­ing al­co­hol, were cannabis and metham­phetamine.

A par­tic­u­larly wor­ry­ing trend is that the num­ber of cases of P be­ing de­tected has shot up in re­cent years.

AA road safety spokesman Dy­lan Thom­sen said the fig­ures showed drug­driv­ing was an in­creas­ing prob­lem.

He be­lieved po­lice should be given the power to carry out road­side saliva­based drug tests.

‘‘We now have more crash deaths where peo­ple test pos­i­tive for a drug than al­co­hol and it’s time to act,’’ he said. ‘‘We have to give po­lice saliva­based test­ing de­vices to catch im­paired driv­ers.

‘‘Drug test­ing of driv­ers is work­ing in Aus­tralia, the UK, France, the Nether­lands, Nor­way, Den­mark and Ire­land and it can work here.’’

As­so­ciate Trans­port Min­is­ter Julie Anne Gen­ter said she had asked of­fi­cials to look at the prob­lem and what other en­force­ ment tac­tics could be used.

But she was un­sure whether saliva­based tests were the best op­tion.

‘‘So­lu­tions to tackle drug driv­ing need to be based on ev­i­dence and ul­ti­mately be ef­fec­tive.

‘‘I am aware that there re­mains a num­ber of prac­ti­cal chal­lenges around saliva test­ing, in­clud­ing the re­li­a­bil­ity of the test­ing tech­nol­ogy and the time it takes for po­lice to ob­tain an ac­cu­rate re­sult,’’ she said.

Na­tional MP Jami­Lee Ross has a mem­ber’s Bill be­fore Par­lia­ment that would al­low for road­side saliva test­ing for meth, ec­stasy and cannabis.

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