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The lack of a thorough understanding about the complex issue of drugs and driving must not be an excuse for inaction – this is the theme of the 2nd International Drugs and Driving Symposium being held in Wellington this week.

100 road safety delegates from New Zealand, Europe, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia are meeting on 12 and 13 November to discuss how to tackle the complex problem of drug driving.

"We mustn't fall asleep at the wheel when it comes to drug driving. Many think otherwise, but we know real harm is caused by people driving after using illicit drugs and prescription medicines, and especially when mixed with alcohol," says said Ross Bell, Executive Director of the New Zealand Drug Foundation.

"A cautious response to the issue is beginning to change with improved analysis of road injuries and death, and better science about the impairing effects of drugs. The onus is now on governments to respond with new laws, improved enforcement and public education."

"For many decades, road safety efforts focused on the problem of alcohol and driving through good enforcement, education and law change. We want to keep doing this but make sure attention is also paid to the risks from other drugs like cannabis and prescription medicines. Up until now we didn't have enough good science to identify how big the problem is."

The two day symposium will provide a forum of over 20 of the world's leading drug driving experts to discuss the importance of tackling this issue using different tactics. Topics include:

  • How countries can determine the nature and magnitude of the problem
  • What laws should be enacted and the best ways to enforce these
  • What roadside testing options do countries have
  • How to educate drivers about the road safety risks of different drugs, including prescription medicines and new "legal highs".

The symposium will hear from drug policy researcher Professor Mark Kleiman about how states in the US are addressing drug driving with cannabis legalisation. Martin Ellis from the UK Department of Transport will discuss the new drug drive thresholds being passed into law this month. Other topics include:

  • Roadside drug testing using saliva
  • The role of kava in road injuries in Fiji
  • Anti-drug driving campaigns using social media.

The New Zealand Drug Foundation will co-host the symposium with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction. The Minister of Police Hon. Michael Woodhouse will open the symposium, which will be the biggest drug driving conference to be held in New Zealand.

Further information about the symposium including the full conference programme is online at www.drugdriving.org.nz Follow twitter hastag #drugdrivingnz

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