Drug Driving Bill introduced

Addressing drug impaired driving is an important objective to make our roads safer. Between 2013 and 2019, the annual number of road deaths in New Zealand increased by nearly 50 percent. Drug driving is making an increasing contribution to this statistic. The Associate Minister of Transport, Hon Julie Anne Genter, introduced the Land Transport (Drug Driving) Amendment Bill into Parliament on 30 July 2020.

The Bill proposes a new random roadside oral fluid (saliva) testing regime. Under the new regime, a police officer would be able to stop any driver of a motor vehicle and administer an oral fluid test without good cause to suspect a driver has consumed drugs, consistent with the existing approach to drink driving enforcement.

If the Bill passes First Reading, it will be referred to Select Committee after the election. The Committee usually then has at least six months to examine the Bill and prepare a report for the House.

For more information on the Bill, see:

For additional information and FAQs on the proposed regime, see our Questions and Answers

The related Cabinet Paper and Regulatory Impact Statement will be published here shortly.

Independent Expert Panel on Drug Driving

Key elements of the oral fluid testing regime are being informed by an independent panel of medical and science experts. The Independent Expert Panel on Drug Driving (the Panel) has been set up 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 by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research
  • the cut-off thresholds to be included in oral fluid testing devices.

The following people have been appointed to the Panel:

  • Dr Helen Poulsen (Chair) (toxicology)
  • Associate Professor Malcolm Tingle (pharmacology)
  • Dr Sharon Kletchko (medical specialist)
  • Andrew McGlashen (pharmacy)
  • Professor Ian Shaw (toxicology and biochemistry).

The Panel will provide advice on setting criminal limits at drug concentrations in blood, with the intention to align with drink driving measures of impairment. This would be a limit equivalent to a blood-alcohol limit of 80mg/100ml – the level of the current drink driving criminal penalty.

These limits are not been included in this Bill, but the intent is for criminal limits to be added by Supplementary Order Paper. To ensure transparency about the limits, the proposed limits will be available to the public during Select Committee consideration of the Bill.

The Panel will also prepare advice on specifying low-level tolerance thresholds to be applied to oral fluid tests and to the detection of drugs in blood by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research, to avoid penalising drivers who have:

  • accidental or passive exposure to drugs
  • a low residual level of a drug that is unlikely to impair driving in their blood due to previous but not recent use
  • consumed a prescribed dose of a prescription or over-the-counter medicine that is unlikely to impair driving.

The Panel has initially been established for a period of one year until April 2021.

Feedback from public consultation on drug driving

The Bill has been informed by public consultation.

In May and June 2019, the Government consulted the public about possible approaches to improving our drug driving system. Eighty-eight submissions were received.

Many submitters acknowledged the complex and multifaceted nature of the issues under consideration. There were diverging views on a number of aspects of the consultation but some key themes emerged:

  • there is majority support for the introduction of oral fluid testing, though there are concerns about the accuracy of oral fluid testing devices
  • the current Compulsory Impairment Test (CIT) should be used more often
  • most submitters favour a zero-tolerance, presence-based approach to roadside drug testing, though there are concerns about the accuracy of oral fluid testing devices
  • support for random drug testing of drivers is mixed 
  • legal limits for illicit and prescription drugs could be explored in the future
  • drivers impaired by prescription and illicit drugs should be subject to the same penalties but there should be a medical defence for drivers that are not impaired
  • the majority of submitters support a requirement for a second oral fluid test following a failed first test, followed by the taking of a blood sample for evidential purposes
  • a multifaceted approach to penalties is required, including non-enforcement options and health-based initiatives
  • Māori are disproportionately impacted by drug driving enforcement measures
  • raising public awareness about the risks of drug-impaired driving is critical.

Download the Summary of Submissions
[PDF, 1.2 MB]
Download the Discussion Document [PDF, 1.4 MB] 

23 May 2019 ERRATUM: please note the attached Discussion Document had a technical error in paragraph 12 that has been corrected. The analysis of blood samples occurred during the period 2013-2018, not between 2014-2018 as previously stated in the document.

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