More Northland drivers fail drug test

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Five Northland men have been convicted for driving under the influence of drugs. Photo / File
Five Northland men have been convicted for driving under the influence of drugs. Photo / File

Five Northland men have been convicted for driving under the influence of drugs, with sentences ranging from fines to community work, and all were banned from driving.

Figures released by police late last year show that 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.

By the start of October last year, 67 people had been convicted of driving under the influence of drugs, but many more had been caught since.

Five more men have appeared in court charged with driving while their blood contained evidence of a controlled drug.

David Thomas Beachen, 21, appeared in Whangarei District Court after tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient of cannabis, was found in his blood in July. Beachen was fined $500 and disqualified from driving for six months.

Laurence Gent, 19, appeared in Kaikohe District Court after THC was found in his blood in July and was ordered to pay $690 and disqualified for six months.

Patea Douglas Rakete, 30, appeared in Kaikohe District Court after THC was found in his blood in June and was sentenced to 40 hours' community work and disqualified for six months.

Zane Barrett Morgan Routledge, 18, was sentenced in Kaikohe District Court to a $500 fine and disqualified for six months after THC was found in his blood in August.

Peter John Reyland, 45, was ordered to pay $770 and disqualified for six months after he had THC in his blood in August.

Northland's top traffic cop, Inspector Murray Hodson, said earlier that police had been focusing on drug-impaired drivers, 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.

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. Only officers trained to check for the signs of drug impairment were able to carry out tests.

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