Pubdate: Fri, 15 Dec 2006
Source: Rotorua Daily Post (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2006 Rotorua Daily Post.
Author: Cherie Taylor
Bookmark: (Cannabis and Driving)
Bookmark: (Drug Test)


Francis paul doesn't look like she is stoned - but a test she failed 
says otherwise.

The 76-year-old Rotorua woman doesn't smoke cannabis or take any 
illegal substances - but she does suffer from arthritis, which caused 
her to fail a mock drug test conducted by the Daily Post yesterday.

The test, based on one police propose to use from next year on 
drivers they suspect have used drugs, included walking a straight 
line, balancing with eyes shut and a time test.

More than half the people tested in the unofficial survey failed the 
simple walk and balance tests.

And they say they weren't under the influence.

Rotorua police say that with the number of drug-affected drivers on 
the increase, the new test is a positive move.

They say anything to get such drivers off the road is a good thing.

When the new regime is introduced by police, drivers who fail will be 
required to give a blood sample, something police may currently not demand.

Because of her medical condition Mrs Paul is unable to walk a 
straight line and was unable to stop herself swaying while balancing 
with her eyes closed.

She said the test was inadequate and would encroach on people's right 
to privacy.

She fears the wrong people could be targeted by the impairment tests.

"I don't think they should do it unless these people are behaving 
really badly on our streets and driving dangerously. It's a breach of 
privacy to do this.

"What if people have a medical condition or are elderly and fail this test?"

Kawerau's Lyall White said she didn't think that people with medical 
issues who failed the test would be penalised.

"All they need is to carry a letter from their doctor saying what 
medication they are on and what they have wrong with them. I'm sure 
the traffic people will be aware of these sort of things. They have 
do something to make our roads safer."

Rotorua teenager Syretta Waikato-Witoko admits to being in a car 
driven by other young people who have smoked drugs and doesn't think 
it's an issue.

"It's people's individual choice if they want to drive stoned. They 
drive more cautiously because they are stoned. It's better than drunk 
driving and not knowing what they are doing," she told the Daily Post.

Police National Headquarters Superintendent Dave Cliff said the 
impairment test had a lower threshold than the existing test, which 
measured whether a driver was "incapable of proper control".

Random tests will not be carried out and the roadside drug test is 
not compulsory under present law.

Rotorua Inspector Steve Bullock said Rotorua police welcomed the move 
with the problem of drug-affected drivers escalating throughout the country.

"Right across the board drug-impaired drivers are on the increase now 
that there are a lot more different drugs out there on the market. I 
am confident that, like any other city or large town, there are a 
number of drivers on our roads who use recreational drugs. If you 
take anything that impairs your concentration or focus then you 
shouldn't be driving," he said.

Police were committed to making the roads safer for all motorists, Mr 
Bullock said.

"Our main focus is to make our roads safe for everybody so nobody 
gets injured or killed."

People concerned they may be mistakenly identified as under the 
influence need not worry.

"It is very in-depth screening, and prescription drugs will be picked 
up. It's quite simple really. If you have taken drugs, don't drive on 
our roads," he said.

Professor Douglas Sellman, from the National Addiction Centre of 
Psychological Medicine, said the move was a positive one but feared 
the tests may catch the wrong people out.

"It's cognitive testing which may catch some older people out who 
have health issues.

"Both alcohol and drugs affect young people differently than older people.

"Studies show that if you give a 16-year-old six standard drinks, you 
get more harm compared to a 26-year-old," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman