Surprise At Drink Drive Decision


The Motor Trade Association says it’s surprised at today’s announcement that the Government is seeking a further two years of research to determine the benefits to New Zealand’s road toll by reducing the blood alcohol level.

The Minister said the government intends to make a final call on whether or not to lower the legal blood alcohol limit after conducting New Zealand-specific research on the level of risk posed by drivers with a blood alcohol limit of between 0.05 and 0.08.

But it’s introducing a zero drink drive limit for recidivist drink drivers and a zero drink drive limit for drivers under 20 years of age.

MTA spokeswoman Ana Zandi says the country’s current 0.8 is already high by international standards and all authorities acknowledge that alcohol is a significant contributing factor to the high road toll.

Further delays in bringing about a reduction to a 0.5 level seemed to be unnecessarily risking more lives on our already troubled roads.

MTA spokeswoman Ana Zandi says with so many countries already at a zero level and others already in the process of reducing their levels, it’s difficult to understand what more information the government could need to make this decision.

“This decision seems out of place in what is an otherwise sensible and well rounded package of measures announced today by Transport Minister Steven Joyce. It’s hard to fathom why government is taking such an approach on the one hand and on the other, continuing to pour huge resources into cutting drink drive rates.”

“We would urge the Minister to make a decision, sooner rather than much later.”

Labour’s Transport Safety spokesperson Darien Fenton says that the government’s announcement today is an attempt to kick the drink drive issue for touch rather than acting decisively.

“Labour would support the lowering of the alcohol limit, because anything that will save lives on our roads is worth doing,” says Ms Fenton.

The announcement showed Transport Minister Steven Joyce was “over-ruled by his cabinet colleagues who were too scared to lower the blood alcohol level.”

“Seventy three percent of drink drive offenders in 2007 were first time prosecutions, so only targeting recidivist offenders in today’s announcement, does nothing to tackle the majority of people who drink and drive.

“We continue to see recidivist drink driving and I agree there should be a zero alcohol driving limit for anyone already convicted of such an offence.

“But we also need to ensure that there is more effective treatment for people who clearly have a problem.”

Ms Fenton says that around a quarter of drivers in crashes involving alcohol have previously been caught drink driving.

“If someone has alcohol addiction problems, it’s unlikely that they will change their behaviour based on penalties and fines.

“They need treatment, or they will be back on the roads, endangering their lives and those of others.

“The government needs to address this problem if they are serious about reducing alcohol related driving injuries and deaths




  1. Scott says:

    Why is it important to reduce the under 20 limit? The road code already describes it as “effectively a zero limit as one drink could put you over the limit”

    I agree that people that anybody who has received a conviction should be placed on the low limit for 5-10 years or life for a 2nd offense. (low limit will be same as the under 20 limit, i don’t care if its changed or not).

    Other ideas I think should be implemented:
    - low limit for drivers on a learner license
    - low limit for drivers on a restricted license
    - low limit for drivers within the first 24 mounts of holding a full license
    -low limit for anybody carrying paying passengers

    Other possible ideas.
    -Increase youth limit age
    -low limit for drivers of vehicles over 3.5 tonne
    -low limit for drivers towing trailers
    -low limit if there is more than 5 people in the vehicle
    -low limit for people with other (non-drinking) driving offenses
    -low limit for people in higher risk groups, i.e elderly, recent overseas conversions, people with borderline vision for driving etc.

    What do you think, are these good ideas or would it over complicate the law?

  2. karl says:

    What is so wrong with lowering it to 0.05?

    Is it too simple?

    Too unpopular with National’s mates in the hospitality and alcohol industry?

  3. Matt says:

    Scott, why not just lower the limit in general? Rather than having all these exceptions, which must be screened for at the roadside in order to determine if the driver is complying with the law, it’s simpler to have one or two categories of driver - under-20/learner (drivers on learner/restricted licences already have the lower limit, regardless of their age) and everyone else - than to try and have dozens of categories based on things that cannot be determined just by viewing a driver’s licence. If a cop has to radio through to check on the conviction/medical/other status of every driver who passed through their checkpoint the queues will back up something awful.

    This is a gutless response from the gutless Minister of Roads. Not that we expect better, but he could at least come up with something better than “more research needed.”

  4. Scott says:

    Matt, There is no mention of the learner or restricted license classes having a lower limit in the road code or on the NZTA website, if this is the law it is not well publicized.

    Of the things mentioned all but two can be determined by looking at a drivers license and the vehicle. The remaining two (high risk groups / offense history) I would have put on as license as conditions, similar to people requiring corrective lenses etc.

    Possibly this is still un-necessarily complex, for what should be a simple message, don’t drink and drive.

  5. Andy says:

    I agree on the 0.05 limit - the govt has just avoided any hard decision.

    I also think the penalties are too lenient. In the UK, if you get convicted of drink driving, you lose your licence for at least 12 months. Any 12 month or more driving ban requires the test to be retaken before the licence is returned. That would help as a deterrent.


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