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In 2020, illegal drugs was a factor in 115 deaths*
In 2020, illegal drugs was a factor in 214 serious injuries*


In a Safe System, no one deserves to be killed or seriously injured because they’ve made a mistake. But you can be at risk if you decide to drive when they’re impaired by illegal drugs.

The impact of illegal drugs on driving

It’s illegal to drive while impaired by any drug (illegal or legal). Impaired driving is when your body or emotions have been affected (usually temporarily) in a way that makes you an unsafe driver.

You risk causing death and serious injury to yourself and other people if you drive under the influence of illegal drugs as these have a similar effect on your driving to alcohol. Illegal drugs can affect your cognitive processing, reaction times and perception of reality. Once absorbed into your bloodstream, the drugs enter your vital organs, including your brain. The result of this can be slowed reactions, dulled judgement and vision; all of which impair your ability to drive.

When illegal drugs or alcohol are taken along with medicine, levels of impairment can intensify. Sometimes the impairment lasts many hours after the illegal drugs or alcohol have been consumed (even into the next day). Illegal drugs can also increase your risk of fatigue.

Some of the extensive costs of drug-driving related crashes are:

  • death and injury
  • emotional harm
  • long-term financial costs
  • legal charges (ranging from manslaughter to 'over the limit')
  • penalties (including imprisonment, loss of licence and/or disqualification and fines)
  • loss of insurance cover.

Want to know more?


*Note: Data is for all crashes reported by NZ Police to Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency for the year 2020 as recorded in the Crash Analysis System (CAS) at 19 July 2021.