Govt urged to give the police more support on drug-testing motorists.

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 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.

Advertisement

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.

Nivek Madams, aged 8, was involved in the fatal accident near Waverley on 27 June 2018.
Nivek Madams, aged 8, was involved in the fatal accident near Waverley on 27 June 2018.
Shady Thompson.
Shady Thompson.

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 that 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 (inset above), said he would like to see more support for police to test for drug-driving.

Ian and Rosalie Porteous.
Ian and Rosalie Porteous.

"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."

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

Advertisement

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

Porteous said he was 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.

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.

Jeremy Thompson was under the influience of Synthetic cannabis at the time of the crash that killed him including 6 others.
Jeremy Thompson was under the influience of Synthetic cannabis at the time of the crash that killed him including 6 others.

Logan Porteous called on the Government to tighten the laws in a 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.

"It's not our roads causing our road toll as much as the drivers." Ian and Rosalie Porteous' son Logan would like to see more support for police to test for drug-driving.

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

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

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

Minister of Police Stuart Nash said this week Cabinet had agreed to release a "discussion document" on drug-driving changes: "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 ... this 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."

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.