National | Alcohol

Sixty per cent of fatal crashes involve drugs, alcohol

By Belinda Feek, Open Justice multimedia journalist, Waikato

New figures show nearly 60 per cent of people who died in crashes over five yearsd had some form of drug or stimulant in their system.

Statistics from the Independent Expert Panel on Drug Driving reveal that of blood samples analysed from 1069 crash victims between 2013 and 2018, 59 per cent were affected by either drugs, alcohol or both.

The data was revealed in coroner investigations that included a man who crashed with six drugs in his system, while two others had alcohol levels at more than four times the legal limit.

Coroners are endorsing the government's continued progress to have police carrying out random roadside testing via its LTA (Drug Driving) Bill, which is now awaiting its third reading in Parliament.

In a decision released last week, coroner Matthew Bates found Jeremy Robert Clayton had a blood-alcohol level five times the legal limit.

The 30-year-old crashed and died on Whitehall Rd, Karapiro, on March 22, 2020, after a day drinking beers and clay shooting with friends.

He left to head home about 7.40pm.

There were no witnesses to the crash but a serious crash investigation found Clayton was travelling on Whitehall Rd when his vehicle crossed the centre line on a bend before colliding with a bridge abutment.

His vehicle then dropped into the stream bed below and burst into flames.

Toxicology results found the Waikato man had a blood alcohol level 204mg per 100 millilitres of blood.

The legal limit for a driver over 20 is 50mg.

Coroner Bates said Clayton's death served as a reminder of the dangers of drink driving.

He asked Waka Kotahi to consider the Waikato serious crash unit recommendations of installing painted edge lines on Whitehall Rd along with a protective Armco barrier on the bridge abutments.

He also recommended the transport agency consider incorporating into its programme of Road to Zero works, the section of road where Clayton died.

Driver five times legal limit, MDMA, tramadol in blood

Jarryd Brett Davidson was driving without his correct lenses and with a blood alcohol level five times the legal limit when he crossed the centre line and crashed into a bus.

The 24-year-old had spent the night of January 11, 2019, drinking with friends before heading south on Gowing Drive, Meadowbank, Auckland the following day.

At the same time, the bus, carrying several passengers, was heading north.

Gowing Drive is a designated bus route but with vehicles allowed to park on either side but the passing distance between vehicles was "very narrow," coroner Tania Tetitaha found.

As the bus approached 72 Gowing Drive, it crossed the centreline by 30cm.

As Davidson approached 72 Gowing Drive, his car crossed the centreline by one metre into the northbound lane, colliding with the bus.

Toxicology results found Davidson's blood level was 257mg. The legal adult blood limit is 50mg. MDMA and tramadol were also confirmed in his blood.

Davidson was travelling between 83km/h and 94km/h at the time of the crash. The speed limit is 50km/h.

The serious crash unit found speed, drugs, and alcohol factors in the crash, along with the fact he wasn't wearing his correct lenses, which was a condition of his licence.

Auckland Transport investigated and proposed to introduce traffic-calming measures on Gowing Drive, along with banning parking around bends.

Coroner Tetitaha found that had the traffic calming measures been in place at the time of the crash, it might have prevented his death.

She supported Auckland Transport's proposed measures, which also include moving a bus stop further down Gowing Drive.

"There is merit in making recommendations that support these proposed traffic calming measures being put in place as soon as possible to prevent further deaths in this area," she said.

Cocktail of drugs in victim's system

Barry Paul O'Sullivan, 64, was travelling south on State Highway 1 at Karapiro on January 25, 2020, when witnesses saw his vehicle travelling "oddly".

About 6am, he was then seen veering out of his lane to pass a truck, but he collided into the path of an oncoming van.

Despite evasive manoeuvres by the van's driver, the vehicles crashed and O'Sullivan, who was not wearing a seatbelt, died at the scene.

Toxicology analysis found amphetamine, methamphetamine, cannabis, THC, Ephedrine, and phentermine in his blood.

While O'Sullivan's sleep patterns before the crash were unknown, there were several indicators that the collision was fatigue-related.

The SCU considered that fatigue was a contributing factor in the crash.

Coroner Bates endorsed a recommendation by Waikato SCU Constable Chris Johnston that a central wire median barrier be installed where the crash occurred.


Statistics from the Independent Expert Panel on Drug Driving 2021 show that between 2013 and 2018 there were 1,342 driver fatalities. ESR analyses of blood samples from 80 per cent, or 1,069, of those people showed:

• 41 per cent had not used alcohol or other drugs;

• 27 per cent were positive for alcohol;

• 25 per cent had used cannabis;

• 7 per cent had used both alcohol and cannabis, but not other drugs;

• 8 per cent had used methamphetamine;

• 8 per cent had used opioid type drugs; and

• 7 per cent had used sedative-type drugs.

Open Justice