What you need to know
Research shows that many illicit and prescription drugs have the potential to impair driving, and studies show New Zealanders are using those drugs and driving. Over 2019-2021, an average of 101 people were killed each year in crashes where a driver was found to have drugs other than alcohol in their system. This represented 31% of all road deaths. While drug drivers already face serious criminal penalties if they are caught, the current law makes it hard for police to carry out more tests that could deter drug driving. It is clear that we are not effective as we could be in deterring drug driving on our roads.
On 11 March 2023, the Land Transport (Drug Driving) Amendment Act came into force. This amended the Land Transport Act 1998 to introduce a range of measures to deter impaired driving on our roads. This included:
- new criminal offences and penalties for drivers who have high levels of impairing drugs, as well as new infringement offences and penalties for drivers with lower levels of impairing drugs.
- new combination offences (at the infringement and criminal level) for people found with multiple types of drugs, or drugs and alcohol.
- different offences and penalty levels to align with the different levels of risk each offence poses.
- a new medical defence for drivers issued infringement notice where they have taken medication in accordance with their prescription or under instructions of their health practitioner.
Roadside oral fluid testing isn’t being rolled out at this time, as a suitable device that met the device approval criteria in the legislation wasn’t able to be identified. Further work is being done by Te Manatū Waka and NZ Police on the next steps for this work.
The work to date
Why random roadside oral testing hasn’t been introduced yet
The aim of random roadside drug testing is to create an efficient method of deterring, detecting, and removing drivers who have taken qualifying drugs from the road. This is intended to allow for infringement notices to be issued to drivers at the roadside, which supports deterrence of drug driving (much like the alcohol testing).
The legislation includes a set of criteria that must be considered before an oral fluid testing device can be approved for use.
Drug Driving Amendment legislation comes into force
On 11 March 2023, the Land Transport (Drug Driving) Amendment Act came into force. This amended the Land Transport Act 1998 to introduce a range of measures to deter impaired driving on our roads.
More information about how NZ Police will implement and enforce the Act can be found on their website: https://www.police.govt.nz/advice-services/drugs-and-alcohol/new-drug-driving-legislation
Drug Driving Amendment legislation passed
The Land Transport (Drug Driving) Amendment Legislation was passed in March 2022.
The legislation brought in a range of new offences and penalties to help reduce the harm that impaired driving caused on our roads.
The legislation also brought in the ability for Police to conduct roadside oral fluid testing. Following a robust procurement process, as of March 2023, a suitable device had not been able to be found.
Further work is underway on the next steps for roadside oral fluid testing.
Independent Expert Panel on Drug Driving completes its final report on recommending statutory limits for drug concentrations related to impaired driving
The Independent Expert Panel on Drug Driving (the Panel) completed its final report in April 2021 on recommending statutory limits for drug concentrations related to impaired driving.
Criminal limits and blood infringement thresholds agreed by Cabinet
Cabinet agreed to set criminal limits and blood infringement thresholds in legislation based on the advice of the Independent Expert Panel on Drug Driving (the Panel).
These limits and thresholds have been added to the Bill via Supplementary Order Paper and will be considered by the Transport and Infrastructure Committee.
Independent Expert Panel on Drug Driving provides interim advice on criminal limits and blood infringement thresholds
In December 2020, the Independent Expert Panel on Drug Driving (the Panel) provided Ministers with recommendations for criminal limits and infringement thresholds for blood drug concentrations.
Independent Expert Panel on Drug Driving provides interim advice on oral and blood drug concentrations in an impaired driving context
On 17 September 2020, the Independent Expert Panel on Drug Driving provided interim advice on oral and blood drug concentrations in an impaired driving context.
Amendment Bill introduced to Parliament and referred to Select Committee
The Associate Minister of Transport introduced the Land Transport (Drug Driving) Amendment Bill into Parliament on 30 July 2020.
Independent Expert Panel on Drug Driving provides interim advice on criminal limits for THC and methamphetamine
On 16 July 2020, the Independent Expert Panel on Drug Driving provided interim advice on criminal limits for THC and methamphetamine. The Panel initially focussed on cannabis and methamphetamine, as these are the most prevalent drugs detected in deceased, hospitalised and impaired drivers in New Zealand.
Independent Expert Panel on Drug Driving appointed
The Independent Expert Panel on Drug Driving has been established to provide advice to the Government on the limits to be specified for drugs in legislation, the low-level tolerance thresholds to be applied to the detection of drugs in blood, and the cut-off thresholds to be included in oral fluid testing devices.
On 18 December 2019, the Government announced its proposal for a new drug driver testing scheme, which would introduce compulsory random oral fluid testing for drug driving. Under the proposed regime, if a driver fails 2 consecutive oral fluid tests that show the presence of a drug, this leads to an infringement offence. Drivers that fail the oral fluid tests can choose to have an evidential blood test.
Government agreed to consult
The Government agreed to undertake public consultation on enhancements to New Zealand’s drug impaired driving regime
Discussion document consulted on
The purpose of the consultation was to get public feedback about possible approaches to improving our drug driving system, including the methods that could be used to screen and test for drugs, the circumstances in which a driver should be tested, what drugs should be tested for and how police should deal with drug driving offences.
Discussion document approved for release
The Government approved the release of a Discussion Document on drug driving, subject to editorial changes.
New road safety strategy work began
We started working with our government transport partners on a new road safety strategy and a planned programme of short to medium-term initiatives to improve road safety. This included strengthening the detection and deterrence of drug-impaired driving.