2009 law change to combat drug impaired driving

The Land Transport Amendment Act 2009 (the Act) amended the Land Transport Act 1998 to give Police greater powers to deal with the problem of people driving under the influence of drugs. Provisions for combating drugged driving came into force on 1 November 2009.

People who drive when their judgement and reactions are impaired by drugs are a danger to themselves and other road users.  The Act aimed to reduce this hazard by:

  • creating a new offence of driving while impaired and with evidence in the bloodstream of a qualifying drug. In the Act, 'qualifying' drugs include a number of controlled drugs that are classified under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, and prescription medicines, as defined in the Medicines Regulations 1984*. 
  • empowering Police to determine whether or not a driver is impaired by means of a 'compulsory impairment test' which tests co-ordination, physiological reactions and markers for drug impairment such as pupil dilation.  
  • empowering Police, if the test shows that the driver is impaired, to forbid the person to drive (generally for 12 hours) and require the driver to provide a blood sample to determine whether qualifying drugs are present.
  • imposing penalties for the impaired-driving offence which are aligned to the penalties for drink driving.
  • providing defences for persons who have consumed qualifying drugs in accordance with a current prescription and instructions from the manufacturer or a health practitioner.
  • creating a further new offence of driving with Class A controlled drugs in the bloodstream in cases where a driver is injured, and is in hospital or a doctor’s surgery.  

Read the questions and answers on the law to combat drug impaired driving.

The Act also reformed the law regulating the registration and licensing of motor vehicles. These changes came into force on 1 May 2011. Information on these changes is available on the NZ Transport Agency website(external link). Information is also available on the Ministry website about ongoing access to the Motor Vehicle Register.
*A more comprehensive list of the qualifying drugs is included in the Questions and Answers section.