Nelson’s emergency services described the New Year’s Eve 2017 road smash in Appleby that killed 23-year-old Matthew Dow as the worst they had ever seen. The offending driver was high on meth and cannabis and was witnessed driving like a maniac and passing recklessly. Matthew was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He was the 79th fatality that year caused by a drug impaired driver. These tragic numbers have skyrocketed from 14 in 2014, 27 in 2015, 54 in 2016 to 79 in 2017. There are now more road fatalities caused by drug impaired drivers than by drunk drivers. Police lack tools for getting drugged drivers off the road. The number of prosecutions was only 200 for drug impaired driving compared to 16,000 for drunk driving in 2017.
Matthew’s family sought my support to get drugged drivers off the road. We launched a petition for New Zealand to introduce roadside drug testing as occurs in Australia, the UK and Canada. Police Minister Stewart Nash was dismissive of the petition saying on TVNZ in December 2018 “There’s a Discussion Document that’s been approved by Cabinet that’s going out to the public early next year.”
This was not true. We now know Police and Transport presented Ministers with a Discussion Document on roadside drug testing in December 2017 yet it has been sitting on Minister’s desks for 17 months and is still not public.
The problem is this Government has a blind spot on the dangers of drugs. Green Minister for Road Safety Ms. Genter has rejected Police and Transport Ministry advice. She says saliva drug testing is too intrusive. Meanwhile the Government is liberalising access to recreational drugs like cannabis and weakening enforcement laws on drugs like Meth.
I caused a stir in Parliament last week when I questioned Police Minister Stuart Nash. I sought leave to introduce National’s Bill enabling Police to randomly test drivers for drugs. Speaker Mallard inexplicably blocked the Bill against normal Parliamentary practice. I objected resulting in me being suspended from Parliament. I make no apologies. It’s my job to call Ministers out when they are untruthful and to push for progress on important issues for our community.
The following day the Coroners Court reported that the Waverley tragedy in June 2018 was caused by a driver high on cannabis and synthetics. This was the worst road crash in a decade killing seven people. The affected families over the weekend joined Matthew’s family and I in pushing for roadside drug testing.
The Government, with National’s support, quickly passed new gun control laws in response to the 51 tragic deaths in the Christchurch Mosque attack. We need the same urgency in addressing drug impaired drivers who kill over 70 people a year.
I urge Nelsonians to support this campaign. You can sign at my caravan at the Nelson Market this Saturday, at my office or online by searching ‘Matthew Dow Petition’. We need to work together to get drug impaired drivers off our roads.