Driver drug test steers right path

Herald on Sunday - - REVIEW - Kerre McIvor u@Ker­reWood­ham

The Gov­ern­ment an­nounced this week it would be in­tro­duc­ing road­side drug test­ing to pick up drug-im­paired driv­ers. This is not solely be­cause it is con­cerned about the num­bers of peo­ple who are killing them­selves, and oth­ers, as a re­sult of get­ting high and get­ting be­hind the wheel.

It’s also be­cause we have a ref­er­en­dum on the le­gal­i­sa­tion of cannabis com­ing up and the Gov­ern­ment wants to re­as­sure the pub­lic that driv­ers who are legally high will be picked up if they are il­le­gally driv­ing.

The bill will al­low po­lice to use oral fluid tests — ba­si­cally saliva tests — to check driv­ers for drugs.

There will be thresh­old lev­els just as there are for that other drug, alcohol, to ac­count for a drug be­ing in your sys­tem but not of a suf­fi­cient level to cause you to be im­paired, and you can re­quest an ev­i­den­tial blood test if you want to ar­gue the toss.

The po­lice al­ready have a test for drugim­paired driv­ers. I thought it was an ur­ban myth, but they can and do ask dodgy driv­ers to walk a straight line and stand on one leg to as­cer­tain their level of im­pair­ment.

They also ask them how long they think 30 sec­onds is. Ap­par­ently this is a very ef­fec­tive test. Of those driv­ers they fail, who then go on to ask for blood tests, more than 90 per cent are found to be over the limit for drugs and/or alcohol.

How­ever, the co-or­di­na­tion tests are time con­sum­ing and re­quire spe­cially trained po­lice of­fi­cers — hence the saliva tests.

It seems in­cred­i­ble that we need laws to pun­ish peo­ple who are in­ca­pable of driv­ing. Surely, as sen­tient be­ings with IQ lev­els higher than rocks, we know that driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence, what­ever that in­flu­ence might be, is en­dan­ger­ing our­selves and in­no­cents who hap­pen to be shar­ing the road with us.

But hu­mans are funny crea­tures. I had many talk­back call­ers and tex­ters tell me that they did not con­done drug driv­ing. How­ever, they did it.

They’d smoke a joint and drive home through the back roads and in­sisted it made them bet­ter driv­ers, be­cause they drove slowly and they were mel­low.

It re­minds me of the olden days, when most peo­ple drove with a skin­ful and de­cried the new drink-driv­ing laws.

They were adamant that driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence of alcohol made them bet­ter driv­ers — they were more vig­i­lant. They were hy­per aware. And clos­ing one eye en­abled them to see the white lines more clearly.

Yeah, right.

Drink­ing and driv­ing is not cool and nor is drug­ging and driv­ing. I’m hor­ri­fied think­ing of the risks I took when I was younger and the world was a dif­fer­ent place.

I will be forever grate­ful for be­ing con­victed for drink-driv­ing 30-odd years ago, be­cause a) I learnt my les­son with­out hurt­ing any­body and b) I un­der­stood what a re­spon­si­bil­ity it is to be on the road, driv­ing a ve­hi­cle.

We have a place up north, and it’s a three-and-a-half-hour drive to get there on a good day. And ev­ery time, I ap­proach that drive like it’s an Olympic event.

I don’t drink for a few days be­fore­hand. If I’ve had a bad night’s sleep, I post­pone the week­end.

When I do head up, I stop a cou­ple of times on the way to re­set and re­fo­cus.

I’m well aware that I have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to oth­ers to be the safest driver I can be, and I have to be hy­per vig­i­lant for those who have yet to have learned their les­son.

Per­haps the best thing about the road­side drug test­ing bill is that it is a line in the sand. A shift in at­ti­tude.

Thanks to the en­force­ment of the drink­ing and driv­ing laws, no­body thinks it’s okay to get be­hind the wheel with a skin­ful.

With the in­tro­duc­tion of the road­side drug test­ing, maybe peo­ple will also ac­cept that driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence of any drug is breaking the so­cial con­tract we have with each other. ● Kerre McIvor Morn­ings, New­stalk ZB, week­days 9am-noon

Photo / Dean Pur­cell

Po­lice launch a drug-screen­ing de­vice that will give in­stant re­sults.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.