Drug driving law changes – frequently asked questions

Why have there been changes to drug driving laws?

We want everyone to be safe on our roads. There’s been a consistent rise in the number of road crashes causing injury or death where drugs or alcohol has been a contributing factor. In 2021, 128 people were killed where a driver was affected by drugs and/or alcohol. 

We’re taking a range of actions to keep people safe. The new laws is one of these actions to strengthen the detection and deterrence of drug driving. 

Which drugs and medications are specified in the new laws? 

There are 25 drugs specified in the new drug driving laws. Each could affect your ability to drive safely, especially if taken in excess of legal limits for driving, or if used in combination with other drugs or alcohol. 

These drugs could be ingredients in a range of prescription medications or illegal drug products. Your doctor, health provider or pharmacist can provide more information about the medications prescribed to you. 

How will drivers be tested for these drugs or medications? 

From 11 March 2023, Police will use existing practices to test drivers for the presence of drugs including the compulsory impairment test and blood test. 

A blood test can be taken when a compulsory impairment test is not satisfactorily completed. This could be if a driver refuses, they have been admitted to hospital after a crash, or they have been involved in an incident where they were not in control of their vehicle. 

Random roadside drug testing is yet to be introduced. A start date for this testing method is yet to be confirmed. See the NZ Police website for more information on this. 

Can you continue to drive if you take prescription medication? 

It’s very important that you keep taking the medicines prescribed for you, and that you understand and follow the instructions given to you by your doctor, pharmacist or the manufacturer of the medication.  

It is illegal to drive if you are unable to drive safely for any reason, such as medication, alcohol, stress, tiredness or injury. 

Will your driver licence be affected if you are over the drug driving limits? 

It could be. It will depend on the situation and your driving record. 

A positive blood test confirming drugs taken in excess of the legal limit for driving could lead to an infringement or criminal offence. 

Penalties for first and second applicable offences are the same as current alcohol penalties – disqualification from driving for at least six months and up to three months in prison. 

Serious criminal offences are heard in court and carry penalties of up to three years in prison or a fine of up to NZD $10,000, as well as mandatory disqualification from driving for at least one year. 

Will a drug driving conviction affect your demerit points? 

Possibly. The law changes have brought in some new offences that have penalties of 50 and 75 demerit points. If you already have at least 100 active demerit points incurred in a two-year period, your licence will be suspended for three months. 

How long do drug driving demerit points last for? 

All demerit points stay active on your licence record for two years from the date of the offence. However, if you receive at least 100 active demerit points in a two-year period, your licence will be suspended for three months. 

If the court disqualifies you from driving for six months or more, any active demerit points on your licence will be cancelled and are not part of your active demerit point total. 

Will vehicle insurance companies know about drug driving offences? 

Waka Kotahi does not share your personal information with any third parties, except where it is authorised by law. This includes to enforce the law or facilitate court proceedings. 

If a third party, such as an insurance company, wants access to information about your driving history, they will ask for your permission and ask you to sign a privacy waiver. 

The Insurance Council of New Zealand website provides information about disclosures of driving infringements and penalties for vehicle insurance.

Insurance Council of New Zealand website(external link)