Drugged drivers next on safety hit list

A scene from the NZTA's hidden camera advertising campaign.
Photo / Supplied
A scene from the NZTA's hidden camera advertising campaign. Photo / Supplied

In the war against drugged drivers an advertising campaign reveals the reactions of secretly filmed New Zealanders when they are told the driver of the car they are in is high on drugs.

The new road safety campaign hits television screens this weekend with the unscripted responses of people who thought they were being driven to a costume fitting for a commercial.

Instead they were being covertly filmed by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and their drivers were actors pretending to be under the influence of drugs.

The campaign is the first step in what the agency hopes will be a long-term behaviour change and a reduction in the harm caused by drugged drivers.

In the two years since the law was changed in 2009, 384 drug-driving notices were issued by police while the number of crashes and injuries caused through drug-driving has also steadily increased in recent years.

NZTA chief executive Geoff Dangerfield said less was known about the extent of drugged driving in New Zealand compared with research on drink-driving, but evidence suggested drugs could be a bigger factor in crashes than officially reported.

"We know that driving under the influence of drugs is common and widespread, yet our research shows that only one in 10 New Zealanders see it as a problem," he said.

Attitudes about driving on drugs were similar to the views people once had about drink-driving and were often based on unfounded myths or people were ignorant of the facts.

"Many people currently believe that they can drive safely on drugs, or that drugs actually make them drive better. This campaign aims to challenge those perceptions by raising awareness of the issue, getting people talking and generating debate," Mr Dangerfield said.

The target of the campaign wasn't just drugged drivers but those who turned a "blind eye" to the behaviour.

Four actors pretended to have taken one of four drugs - P, ecstasy, cannabis or a prescription medicine - while hidden cameras captured the passengers' real reactions, ranging from complacent, to nervous to angry.

All gave their consent for the footage to be used.

Automobile Association (AA) motoring affairs manager Mike Noon said the drug-driving problem needed to be addressed.

He said the AA had been saying for some time that New Zealand's impaired driving problem was not just about alcohol.

Mr Noon said that combination could be as simple as someone on a prescription drug which affects their driving or someone taking an illegal drug with a small amount of alcohol.

When compared to overseas, New Zealand's impairment rates were quite high, especially those driving with cannabis and methamphetamine in their system.

"It's completely naive to think those daily users of those drugs are not daily drivers, because they will be," Mr Noon said.

*Total of 384 drug-driving offences November 2009 to October 2011.
*Total number of crashes increased from 56 in 2005 to 80 in 2010.
*Total injuries increased from 94 2010 to 152 in.

- NZ Herald

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