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Driving under the influence of drugs is now a lot easier to prove and punish.

The Land Transport Amendment Act 2009 gives Police greater powers to deal with the problem of people driving under the influence of drugs.

The drug driving provisions of the Land Transport Amendment Act 2009 will come into force on 1 November 2009. 

The new offence

The Land Transport Amendment Act 2009 creates a new offence of driving while impaired and with evidence in the bloodstream of a qualifying drug or driving while impaired and with evidence in the bloodstream of a prescription medicine.

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

Isn’t drugged driving already against the law?

Yes, it is.  Drivers currently have a general duty to be mentally and physically fit when they drive a motor vehicle on public roads – this includes not being impaired by alcohol or drugs.

There is also an offence of being incapable of proper control of a vehicle while under the influence of drink or drugs. However, this can be difficult to prosecute as the interpretation of “incapable" can vary. 

The existing “incapable” offence remains in place.  In cases where the impairment test cannot be used Police will have the option of charging the person under this offence, if there is sufficient supporting evidence.

How will it be enforced?

Where a Police officer has “good cause to suspect” that a driver has consumed a drug or drugs, the officer may require the driver to take a compulsory impairment test.

Grounds for having good cause to suspect include erratic driving or, if the driver has been stopped for another reason, appearing to be under the influence of drugs.  An example of the latter is the person stopped at an alcohol checkpoint who is behaving in an intoxicated manner but there is no evidence of drink driving.

If the driver does not satisfactorily complete the compulsory impairment test, the Police officer may forbid the driver to drive, and require the driver to provide a blood sample.

Forbidding the person to drive deals with the immediate road safety risk represented by the impaired driver. It is likely that drivers who fail the impairment test would be forbidden to drive for 12 hours (the period of prohibition applied to a driver who is over the legal adult breath alcohol limit) but this may vary depending on the discretion on the Police officer.

The procedure for taking a blood sample is the same as for drink drivers who opt for a blood te

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