More fatal crashes involve drugs than alcohol: AA study
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.