Back to top

[ Skip to main content ]

Results from the Drug Foundation’s survey into driving and drugs suggest “cannabis driving” is a serious road safety issue in New Zealand.

Nearly 1200 New Zealanders completed the anonymous online survey which closed early this year. It asked what respondents knew and thought about driving and drugs and about their own drug driving behaviours.

The results, which were released today by Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne at the national ‘Cutting Edge’ drug treatment conference in Wellington, suggest driving under the influence of cannabis is relatively common.

A quarter of drivers who completed the survey (24.5 percent) admitted driving after taking cannabis in the last year while 21.4 percent admitted to drink driving. Based on rates of cannabis use in the general population[1] this means up to 12 percent of New Zealand drivers may have driven under the influence of cannabis in the last year.

The survey also showed the more a person used a particular drug, such as cannabis, the more likely they were to think it okay to drive after using it. More than half of respondents (56.4 percent) said taking cannabis did not affect their driving ability and 16.4 percent even said it made their driving “slightly better”.

Drug Foundation Executive Director Ross Bell says this is a serious concern because there’s a growing body of evidence that cannabis use impairs driving ability.

“Some cannabis users may feel like their driving is unaffected or better while they’re high, but studies show they have slower reaction times, are less able to control their vehicles and are much more likely to cause collisions.

“It’s a similar mindset to the drunk drivers of yesteryear who said their driving improved after a few drinks. No one seriously believes that anymore and we need a similar attitude shift in people who think it’s okay to take drugs and drive.”

The survey also revealed that while most people thought roadside drug-testing would improve road safety, there is a general lack of knowledge about the effects drugs have on driving.

“Research tells us the most effective ways to prevent drug driving include both public education and enforcement,” Mr Bell said.

“We need to shatter the complacent illusion some people have that their drug driving is somehow not dangerous.

“No matter how bullet-proof you think you are, if you do it, you're more likely to cause a crash and there’s a good chance you will get caught.”

The passing of the Land Transport Amendment Act in June means that, from December, Police will have the power to conduct compulsory roadside tests on drivers they suspect have taken drugs.

Mr Bell said the survey shows roadside drug testing is likely to be accepted quickly by New Zealand communities and that survey results would be used to inform the development of other prevention initiatives and resources.

Summary of findings:

(Page numbers from the report are included for more information)

  • Alcohol and cannabis were the most commonly driven on substances. (Pg 32)
  • Two thirds (67.1 percent) of cannabis users reported driving under the influence of cannabis in the past year. Based on rates of cannabis use in the general population from national household surveys[2], up to 12 percent of New Zealanders may have driven under the influence of cannabis in the past year. (Pg 32)
  • Nearly a quarter (23.6 percent) of drinkers in the sample reported driving under the influence in the past year. (Pg 32)
  • Driving under the influence of multiple substances is the most dangerous driving behaviour in terms of impairment, yet 11.6 percent of respondents reported doing so in the past year. Over a third (35.7 percent) of combination substance users reported driving while under the influence of two or more substances. (Pg 32)
  • Substance combination drivers always combined alcohol with at least one other drug, most often cannabis. Research evidence tells us this causes severe impairment. (Pg34)
  • The majority (78.6 percent) of cannabis drivers felt their driving was not changed or was better when they last drove under the influence of cannabis. (Pg 49)
  • All drug combination drivers felt their driving was a lot worse when they last drove under the influence. (Pg 49)
  • Though most drink drivers thought their driving was worse the last time they drove under the influence, over a third (37.3 percent) thought their driving was not affected or was slightly better. (Pg 49)
  • People who used drugs and had driven under the influence thought it was safer than people who used drugs and had not driven under the influence. Identifying why some drug users evaluate the risks of drug driving differently from others could be key to designing prevention programmes. (Pg 58)
  • Respondents generally reported knowing very little about the effects of substances on driving. (Pg 60)
  • Three quarters (76.5 percent) of respondents ‘totally agreed’ or ‘somewhat agreed’ that drug driving was a significant road safety issue in New Zealand. (Pg 81)
  • 70.5 percent of our sample ‘totally agreed’ or ‘somewhat agreed’ that random roadside drug testing would improve road safety in New Zealand. (Pg 82)

 

[1] National Household Survey Reference: Wilkins, C. & Sweetsur, P. (2008). Trends in population drug use in New Zealand: findings from national household surveying of drug use in 1998, 2001, 2003, and 2006. The New Zealand Medical Journal, 121(1274), 61-71.

[2] Wilkins, C. & Sweetsur, P. (2008). Trends in population drug use in New Zealand: findings from national household surveying of drug use in 1998, 2001, 2003, and 2006. The New Zealand Medical Journal, 121(1274), 61-71.

Share this article:
Share:

Related See more

checkpoint ahead

The government is consulting on roadside drug testing – tell them what you think

Driver screening is one of many safeguards that must sit alongside legal, regulated cannabis. We’d like to see this resolved - but the tech...

MoS march 2019 thumbnail drug driving.

Stoned at the wheel: is there a problem?

Can roadside testing detect impaired drivers? Naomi Arnold looks at the evidence.

aug 2011 dope driving

Mythbusters: Dope driving: I'm a safer driver when I'm stoned - crap or fact?

Many pot smokers who smoke and drive will say they're fine to get behind the wheel. Mythbusters looks at the evidence to see whether this is...

hand with roll-up on steering wheel

Driving high

Cannabis and cars don’t mix. We know pot causes impairment, but just how much, and is it even that dangerous? Damian Christie looks at one o...

e substance newsletter promotional thumbnail

Sign-up for email updates

The latest New Zealand drug news and analysis.

Subscribe now

Did You Know resources thumbnail

Did You Know

Tools to help your young person make better decisions about drugs.

Learn more