The Land Transport Amendment Act (‘the Act’) was passed on 25 July 2009 and will come into force on 1 December 2009. The Act was in response to the public’s growing concern about drug-impaired drivers posing a serious risk on our roads. All drivers should be aware that the Act not only covers controlled drugs but also prescription medicine that is not taken in accordance with the instructions of a health practitioner. Under the Act it is now an offence for a person to drive or attempt to drive a motor vehicle when they are impaired and their blood contains evidence of the use of a controlled drug or any prescription medicine. Currently police officers are only able to ask a driver to take an impairment test but they cannot force them to do so. Under the Act a police officer will have the ability to require a person to undergo a compulsory impairment test if they have good cause to suspect that a person has consumed either prescribed medication or illegal drugs. An individual can be required by a police officer to undergo an impairment test if they are: • a driver or someone attempting to drive a motor vehicle • a person whom a police officer has good cause to suspect has recently driven or attempted to drive a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs, or • the driver of a vehicle that has been involved in an accident or if they are unable to locate the driver then a person whom the police officer has good cause to suspect was in the vehicle at the time of the accident. Impairment tests The impairment tests to be implemented are already used extensively worldwide and New Zealand police officers are to receive specialist training from trainers in the United Kingdom. Proposed tests include balance (the one-leg stand test), coordination (the walk and turn test), and the eye-pupil response test. If a person fails the impairment test then a blood test will follow to establish whether the person has taken a controlled drug or any prescribed medication. Defences There are however some defences available. It is not an offence if the person consuming the controlled drug or prescription medicine has done so in accordance with: • a current and valid prescription, and • any instructions from a health practitioner or the manufacturer of the drug or medicine. It is also not an offence if the person has been administered the drug or medicine by a health practitioner without a prescription, and they have complied with any instructions the health practitioner has given them. Penalties The penalties for drug-impaired driving are similar to the current penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol; six months disqualification of licence and a fine of up to $4,500. Any evidence gathered for a conviction under the Act cannot be used as evidence in a prosecution under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.