Bay has nation's highest arrest rate for drug driving

By Kelly Makiha

More stoned drivers are being caught in Tauranga and the rest of the Bay of Plenty than anywhere else in the country.

Figures released this week show 116 drivers have been caught under the influence of drugs in the Bay of Plenty - most in the Western Bay of Plenty.

Nationwide, police have caught 586 drugged drivers between the introduction of the anti-drug-driving law in November 2009 and this February.

The vast majority were men.

Police were unable to supply an exact breakdown of where the arrests were made in the Bay, however, Bay of Plenty road policing manager Inspector Kevin Taylor said most were made in the Western Bay.

About 65 per cent of those caught in the Bay were for cannabis-related drugs, 30 per cent were for stimulants such as methamphetamine and the remainder was for opiates and sedatives.

Mr Taylor said the Bay's high arrest rate reflected a continued focus by his staff on drugged drivers.

"It could be that staff here have taken the tools available and have run with it. We have trained more staff than other districts in doing drug driving testing," he said.

However, Mr Taylor said, there was no denying the Bay of Plenty had a significant drug problem.

"The quantity of drugs that are removed from the district as evidence in Operation Kelly is an indication of the level of drug offending in the Bay of Plenty," Mr Taylor said.

The new law allowed police to deliver on their gut instincts a driver was stoned.

"The scary thing is that before this legislation was available to us, we would still deal with those people but unless they were impaired to the extent that they were incapable, the best we could do was remove their keys and make them walk. So many would fly under the radar," he said.

The regional breakdown showed the Bay of Plenty consistently recorded the highest rate of prosecutions, making up a fifth of the national tally. The 116 drivers nabbed in the region compared with 70 caught in Waitemata, which had the second-highest rate, followed by the Central region, where 63 had been charged.

The problem has been highlighted in a recent series of TV ads showing the real-life reactions of secretly filmed New Zealanders when told the driver of their car was high on drugs. A study had found of 1046 drivers who died in crashes between 2004 and 2009, about 35 per cent had cannabis or other drugs in their system.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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