Drugged driving fatalities now outnumber drink driving deaths in New Zealand

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RNZ rnz.co.nz

More fatal road crashes last year involved drugged drivers than drunk drivers, figures obtained by the Automobile Association (AA) reveal.

Driving (file picture).

Driving (file picture).

Source: istock.com

Last year, 79 fatal crashes involved a driver with drugs in their system, compared with 70 involving an intoxicated driver.

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In 2016, 59 fatal crashes involved a drugged driver and 67 involved alcohol. The figures come from testing that is done by authorities following a fatal crash.

"The AA has called drugged driving a silent killer on our roads for years and these latest figures confirm how prevalent drugs are in fatal crashes," Dylan Thomsen, AA road safety spokesperson, said.

"No one wants someone who is high driving towards their family at 100km/h but right now the chances of being caught drugged driving is tiny. We have to change that."

The association is repeating its call for the introduction of random roadside drugs testing.

Excluding alcohol, the two most commonly detected individual drugs were cannabis and P.

The cases of P being detected had shot up in recent years, and a range of other drugs and medications that impair driving also feature in the results, the AA said.

Dylan Thomsen said saliva-based testing kits should be used. They detect common illict drugs including cannabis, methamphetamine, and ecstasy.

At present police have to have strong cause to suspect drug use and then take the driver to a police station for a 'walk-and-turn' test.

"The current system almost needs a driver to be sitting in the car with drugs on the seat next to them to get tested," Mr Thomsen said.

"The saliva testing devices being used in many other countries would be much faster and allow many more potentially drug impaired drivers to be tested than the current approach."

The AA believes the increase in drugged-driving figures this year is probably due to more thorough testing being done following crashes.

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