I am sure that many Selwyn residents would have been shocked by the recent homicide in the district and the reported involvement of gang members in this incident. While most Selwyn residents are wonderful, law-abiding citizens, this event is a reminder that no community is immune from the influence of gang activity and criminal behaviour. For this reason, it is vital that our local police have the resources they need to deal with incidents and help prevent crime in our communities.
Unfortunately, road safety remains a major issue in our district that takes up a considerable amount of police attention. As I mentioned in a column in the Selwyn Times earlier this year, Selwyn has an unacceptably high rate of crashes, particularly at intersections. Anything that we can do to reduce both our local and our national crash rate, should be encouraged.
One way of approaching the problem is to look at the reasons for fatal crashes and see what we can do to minimise or eliminate the risks. Last year, 79 fatal crashes involved a driver with drugs in their system, compared with 70 involving an intoxicated driver. These figures come from testing that is done by authorities following a fatal crash and show that we need to get more proactive in preventing people from driving while under the influence of drugs.
Currently, under the Land Transport Act, drug driving is measured by an impairment test that involves an eye assessment and requesting a driver walk heel to toe in a straight line. The current method has some obvious limitations.
Advances in drug testing technology over recent years including saliva and sweat tests have made roadside testing for drugs much more practical. Based on this, my colleague Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott submitted a Members Bill which would have allowed police officers to perform roadside drug testing on any driver who they suspected was driving under the influence of drugs.
Disappointingly all three parties in the Coalition Government voted against this Members Bill, despite Police Minister Stuart Nash previously acknowledging the need to roll out new technology to combat the danger posed by drugged drivers.
The voting down of a Members Bill which would have kept our roads safer and saved lives is incomprehensible. If the Government saw some way to improve the Bill the least they could have done was to send it to select committee for consideration and feedback.