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Roadside drug testing for drivers to be introduced in New Zealand

The Government is moving to introduce roadside drug testing, which will include test for some prescription drugs. 

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The saliva tests can pick up drugs like methamphetamine and even some prescription drugs. Source: 1 NEWS

Police will be able to conduct random roadside oral fluid drug testing in an attempt to "deter, detect and prosecute" drugged drivers, Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter said today. 

"If you take drugs and drive, you will be caught," Ms Genter said. 

Currently, police can test if they have reason to believe a driver is on drugs, but the Government is moving to allow swabbing of drivers' mouths to test for a range of drugs. 

"Last year 95 people were killed in preventable crashes where the driver was found to have drugs in their system that could impair driving.

"That is an enormous and intolerable loss of life," she said. 

Ms Genter said those testing positive for drugs will receive a fine and immediately suspended from driving for a minimum of 12 hours.

"Drivers will also face criminal penalties if they fail a compulsory impairment test and blood tests confirm impairing levels of drugs in their system," she said. 

It will initially test for THC, methamphetamine, opiates, cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy), and benzodiazepines which are the most prevalent and high risk drugs and medications. 

Some prescription drugs will be able to be checked via the oral fluid tests, however "a medical defence will be available in instances where people have taken medication in accordance with their prescription", Ms Genter said. 

"The threshold for a criminal offence will be aligned with that for alcohol. This means a blood test that identifies impairing medication or drugs at or above an amount equivalent to the criminal drink driving limit (80mg of alcohol to 100ml of blood) will result in a criminal offence."

The tests cost between $25-$45 each and the changes to get the testing through Parliament could take about a year. 

Karen Dow, the mother of 23-year-old Matthew Dow who was killed in an accident involving a driver who had taken methamphetamine, asked why it could not be implemented sooner. 

"We have the tools to do it, we have the nous to do it, the police want it enforced, why not sooner?

"Particularly with the Government looking at loosening legislation on cannabis I find that absolutely horrifying," she said. 

"I don't want another parent to have to go through what we've gone through, to lose you first born child is the worst, absolute worst."

Dylan Thomson of the AA said there was not enough information to let people know about medications that can impair driving.

"We can do a lot better in the information that is provided on the medicines and also the conservations they are having with doctors and pharmacists."