ESR Science Leader Dr Helen Poulsen joined a gathering of international experts at a Symposium on drugs and driving hosted by the New Zealand Drug Foundation in Wellington.
The Symposium was the second of its kind held and was opened by Police Minister Michael Woodhouse.
Over the course of two days attendees shared and discussed a range of issues from around the globe including the nature and identification of the issue, data collection, legislative and policy options, deterrence and enforcement and new challenges emerging.
In many countries, including New Zealand, drugged driving is dealt with as a road safety issue and comprises two main offender groups – those recreational users that then choose to drive, and heavy users and those on prescription medication who will always drive.
Although much of the response to drugged driving is based on methodologies employed to tackle drink driving (which have had a good deal of success), Dr Poulsen says the issue of drugged driving has many different components.
“Drink driving related deaths tend to occur at night, on or near the weekend, and with young male victims in single vehicle crashes but drugged driving related deaths occur at any time on any day with a higher proportion of female victims and multiple vehicles.
“The type of drug or drugs found also varies from region to region. Although cannabis and methamphetamine are still very dominant, prescribed medical drugs are also a recognised issue, particularly when taken with alcohol.
“We are all grappling with the best response strategies and how to get more information on which to base these responses but events like this are very helpful for everyone involved,” Dr Poulsen says.