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Details revealed of proposed new random roadside drug testing law

The Government has today announced details of a planned new law giving police the power to conduct random roadside drug testing of drivers.

File picture. Source: istock.com

The Land Transport (Drug Driving) Amendment Bill, introduced to the House today, is expected to have its first reading next week, Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter and Minister of Police Stuart Nash said today in a statement.

“This new law will allow police to test if drivers are under the influence of drugs anywhere, anytime, just as they do now for alcohol,” Mr Nash said.

The bill would allow police to carry out oral fluid tests to check for drugs, which are likely to include THC (cannabis), methamphetamine, opiates, cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy), and benzodiazepines - some of the "most prevalent prevalent and high risk drugs and medications used by drivers in New Zealand," he said.

“Under this law, drivers who test positive for the presence of drugs will be fined, immediately suspended from driving for 12 hours, and lose half their demerit points."

It comes after 103 people died in crashes last year where the driver was later found to have drugs in their system, Ms Genter said.

The bill is expected to head to the select committee following the election, where experts and the general public can have their say on the details of the proposed law, she said. 

"No loss of life on our roads is acceptable and we’re committed to taking action to stop unnecessary trauma."

The National Party today welcomed the proposed changes. 

“National will strongly support this Bill and help facilitate its passage through Parliament. Every month we delay risks another eight lives being lost," National's Drug Reform spokesperson, Nick Smith, said today in a statement. 

However, Mr Smith also criticised Ms Genter's decision to reject officials' detailed proposals for roadside drug testing in 2017.

"It was wrong for Road Safety Minister Julie Anne Genter to reject officials’ detailed proposals in November 2017 for roadside drug testing, saying it was 'too intrusive' and 'extremely expensive,'" he said.

"We will work hard to get the detail right, the resources into place and this Bill facilitated through Parliament to get this urgent road safety legislation in place."

Specific criminal limits for drugs will be added to the Bill by Supplementary Order Paper and provided to the select committee for scrutiny, allowing the independent expert panel sufficient time to provide advice on the setting of the limits.