'High' drivers netted

By Mike Dinsdale

More than 90 per cent of motorists in Northland tested for driving under the influence of drugs have illicit substances in their blood, including cannabis and methamphetamine, the region's road policing boss says.

Northland's top traffic cop Inspector Murray Hodson said by the start of October 67 people had been convicted of driving under the influence of drugs, but many more had been caught since.

Mr Hodson said police had been putting a focus on drug-impaired drivers recently, with more than 90 per cent of those tested found to have drugs in their system.

"That's a very high number and a real concern," he said.

While most of the busted Northland drivers were under the influence of cannabis, many had used methamphetamine.

"There are hard drugs being found, which is really worrying, as the harder the drug, the more damaging effect it has on your driving. It is irresponsible to drive under the influence of drugs and shows they have no concern for the safety of other road users and those who may be travelling in their vehicle with them."

Police can only drug-test drivers if they believe they are under the influence. The impairment test entails the driver having an eye assessment, followed by a walk and turn, and one-leg stand test. Drivers who fail the test must undergo a blood test. At this stage there are no plans to introduce mouth swabs to detect drugs.

Mr Hodson said only officers trained to check for the signs of drug impairment were able to carry out the tests and with more than 90 per cent of those tested coming back as positive for drugs, they were good at their job.

"[Targeting drug-impaired drivers] is part of our national strategy to reduce the annual road toll to 250 road deaths and we are looking at the five main causes - alcohol/drugs, speed, restraints, driver fatigue and inattention." "Anybody stopped on the roads will be breath-tested and if the officer suspects they have been driving under the influence of drugs, they will be tested for that too."

- Northern Advocate

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