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Drug Driving testing welcomed

My 2019 began with the launch of Matthew’s Petition in Appleby last New Year seeking the introduction of random roadside drug testing to make our roads safer. It could not have ended better with the Government announcing on the last day of Parliament their agreement to introduce this measure after dismissing it all year.

23 year old Matthew Dow was killed in a horrible New Year’s Eve crash by Golden Bay woman Alicia Fulcher who was high on meth and cannabis, driving like a maniac and passing recklessly. Nelson’s emergency services described the Appleby crash as the worst they had ever seen.

The road toll from drug impaired drivers has escalated from 14 in 2014, 27 in 2015, 54 in 2016 and Matthew Dow was the 79th in 2017. There was another 95 in 2018. These numbers now exceed drunk driving. However 16,000 people were prosecuted for drunk driving as compared to only 200 for drugged driving. The current drug impairment test is unworkable and impractical. Drug users know they face little chance of being prosecuted. 

I am in awe of Mathew’s mum, Karen Dow, who has led the campaign with me on random roadside drug testing this year. I thank the over 6,000 Nelsonians who signed our petition. We were joined by the Waverley community in June after their horrific seven person fatality crash caused by a drugged driver.

Police and the Transport Ministry recommended new laws enabling saliva testing for drugs to Road Safety Minister Genter over two years ago. The Green Party Minister rejected the advice saying saliva testing is too intrusive and a breach of the Bill of Rights. She questioned the risks posed by recreational drug use incorrectly claiming prescription drugs were a greater risk. She also questioned the accuracy of testing.

I reject these arguments and worry the Green Party has a dangerous blind spot on the problems caused by recreational drug use. Australia, Canada and the UK have all successfully introduced random roadside drug testing. We heard the same opposition when National introduced random roadside alcohol testing in 1993. It was successful in halving drunk driving fatalities.

I tried three times this year to introduce a Bill to introduce random drug testing. Speaker Trevor Mallard took the extreme step of blocking me in May and when I objected, he named me. This is the most serious punishment an MP can receive and has not been used in a decade. I again sought leave for a Bill to be introduced on Parliament’s last sitting day on December 18. Ironically, the Government again opposed it but then announced that evening it would do so next year.

Politics is about winning arguments for the better. This measure will save dozens of lives and is even more important with the Government’s push for legalising recreational cannabis.  I hope and pray there are not too many fatalities before the Government scheme starts in February 2021. My job in 2020 will be ensuring the new law is robust and we get the testing in place ASAP.

 

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