The devastated son of an innocent couple killed in one of New Zealand's worst road crashes is calling for the Government to make rapid changes to improve police powers to test for drug driving.

The call comes after it was revealed the driver responsible for a horror two-car crash that killed seven people, including his own newborn daughter, near Waverley, had repeatedly consumed synthetic drugs before he got behind the wheel.

The crash happened on State Highway 3 just outside of the Taranaki town on June 27 last year.

Ian Porteous, 80, his wife Rosalie, 76, his sister Ora Keene, 84, and friend Brenda Williams, 79, were killed when a car driven by Jeremy Thompson, 28, collided with their vehicle.

Thompson was also killed along with his 8-week-old daughter Shady and Nivek Madams,
the 8-year-old daughter of his partner Ani Nohinohi.

Advertisement

Nohinohi was the sole survivor of the crash.

An inquest into the fatal smash, one of New Zealand's most deadly, was held yesterday.

The inquest heard Thompson had smoked more than three cones of synthetic drugs the morning of the crash.

Shortly before it happened Thompson stopped the car and smoked more.

Nohinohi had also smoked the toxic substance and said she could not recall the crash because she was "synnied out".

After the inquest, Ian and Rosalie Porteous' son Logan said he would like to see more support for police to test for drug driving.

"It's not our roads causing our road toll as much as the drivers," he said.

"We will, as a family, fight for this in the name of the innocent people who were killed in this accident, as a result of a driver under the influence of drugs."

Advertisement

Logan Porteous noted how quickly the Government had changed gun laws after the mosque shootings.

"So it can be done again, it's up to the politicians."

Porteous said he was completely numb after hearing the evidence that the crash was caused by drug-driving.

"To be honest right now the grief hasn't hit me, it's just something you have to deal with."

He said the crash was absolutely avoidable.

"Everyone has a choice to either drink or, in this situation, take drugs, then get in a car."

In New Zealand it is an offence to drive while impaired by drugs and with evidence in the bloodstream of a qualifying drug - including controlled substances.

Jeremy Thompson had repeatedly consumed synthetic cannabis the day he caused the crash that killed him and six others.
Jeremy Thompson had repeatedly consumed synthetic cannabis the day he caused the crash that killed him and six others.

The presence of a qualifying drug alone is not sufficient for an offence; there must first be impairment as demonstrated by unsatisfactory performance of the compulsory impairment test.

If a person fails a compulsory impairment test, police have the option of charging them if there is sufficient supporting evidence.

Logan Porteous called on the Government to tighten the laws in bid to save lives.

"It does not make sense that the police are not in a position where they can randomly drug test drivers on the road," he said.

"I'm from Melbourne where it's commonplace there, so why can't it be brought in here?"

His call came two days after a petition was presented to Parliament by the mother of another man killed by a drug-affected driver.

Matthew Dow, 23, was killed in a crash near Nelson on New Year's Eve 2017 by a woman who had been drinking and smoking methamphetamine and cannabis when she got behind the wheel.

On Wednesday Dow's mother Karen handed over a petition signed by close to 1900 people to MP Nick Smith and 14 of his National colleagues.

Alicia Fulcher-Poole, 28, was sent to prison for three and a half years last year for charges including driving causing death while under the influence of drugs.

"New Zealand urgently needs to introduce roadside drug testing to address the increasing road toll and to protect motorists from the effects of the Government's reforms that allow easier access to drugs," Smith said.

"The current law and enforcement for drug-impaired drivers is ineffective and weak, compared to that for drunk driving.

"This petition rightly seeks the introduction of random roadside saliva tests for drugs on the same basis as breath testing for alcohol.

"These saliva tests are working successfully in Australia, the UK and Canada, and are urgently needed here."

Ani Nohinohi was the sole survivor of the crash that killed seven people including her two children. Photo / File
Ani Nohinohi was the sole survivor of the crash that killed seven people including her two children. Photo / File

Smith said, in 2017, 79 people were killed on the road by drug drivers compared to 70 deaths caused by drink-drivers.

He stated there were only 200 convictions for drug-impaired driving compared to more than 16,000 for drink-driving.

"It is simply not good enough that every five days in New Zealand, a person like Matthew Dow loses their life to a drugged driver," said Smith.

Assistant Commissioner for road policing and prevention Sandra Venables said every motorist had a part to play in keeping themselves and others alive.

"Any life lost on our roads is devastating. We never lose sight of the real human loss and grieving behind these deaths and we feel for the families who have lost loved ones in this tragic crash," she said.

"Road safety is everyone's responsibility but we cannot do this alone.

"We encourage people to always have a sober driver if they are socialising. Don't get into a vehicle and please call police if you suspect the driver is impaired."

She did not rule out future changes to the way police dealt with impaired drivers.

"New Zealand police undertake roadside drug testing by using a compulsory impairment test and we are committed to removing impaired drivers from the roads.

"We are always actively looking at ways to improve what we do."

Police Minister Stuart Nash said earlier this week Cabinet had agreed to release a discussion document on changes to the drug driving regime.

"Its release is imminent."

A spokeswoman for Nash said the current compulsory impairment test (CIT) was effective but placed a heavy demand on police resources.

As of yesterday the road toll stood at 150 for the year, up on 137 for the same time in 2018.

National road policing manager Superintendent Steve Greally pleaded with motorists to take more care and responsibility.

"It is extremely disappointing that the road toll has surpassed the number of deaths at the same time last year," he said.

"Drivers must be responsible by giving the roads their full attention, driving to the conditions, not driving drunk, drugged, or fatigued and ensuring the use of seatbelts.

NZTA general manager of safety, health and environment Greg Lazzaro said every death and serious injury had far-reaching consequences.

"It is a terrible fact that on average seven people die and more than 50 are reported seriously injured every week on New Zealand's roads," he said.

"Every one of these deaths and serious injuries has a devastating and ongoing impact on our families and our communities."

The scene at Waverley where seven people died in a crash. Photo / NZME
The scene at Waverley where seven people died in a crash. Photo / NZME

According to the Ministry of Transport's annual social cost of road crashes report, released in April, the estimated social cost of motor vehicle fatal and injury crashes in 2017 was $4.8 billion

The 378 fatalities of 2017 had an estimated social cost of $4.4 million each.
Each serious injury sustained in a crash had a social cost of $458,400 while each minor injury was $24,700.

At the inquest into the Waverley fatal a letter from Nohinohi was read.

"I am very sorry about the tragic outcome for so many families and friends of all of the people who died as the result of the accident," she said in the letter read by a support person.

"Because of some poor choices seven people lost their lives. I am so sorry for all who are suffering.

"I am grateful to the many people who worked so hard to save my life.

"I live not just with physical pain and a brain injury but also with the loss of my beautiful girls Nivek and Shady. I have wanted to join them in Heaven many times but I cannot put my family and friends through more pain.

"Again, I am very sorry about what has happened. I think about everyone who died and of my own losses and everyone who is now sad."