The Worst 73 Drivers


72% of all alcohol-related deaths on our roads are caused by drivers who have either a prior drink driving conviction or are more than 50% over the current adult legal limit.

Transport minister Steven Joyce released those figures today in support he said of “the government’s approach to managing the drink driving issue.”

The Ministry of Transport figures,  show that in 2009 88 deaths - 72% of all alcohol related deaths - were caused by 73 drivers who were either at least 50% over the current drink drive limit or who already had a previous conviction for drink driving.

Of the 88 deaths, 34 were caused by drivers with a previous conviction.  50 of the deaths were caused by drivers who were at least double the current legal limit.

Mr Joyce says legislation before Parliament is designed to help get those high-risk drivers off the road.

Among other things, the legislation will:

  • Subject repeat drink drive offenders to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) zero limit for three years after they receive their licence back.
  • Provide for a new penalty regime for breaches of the proposed zero drink drive limits.
  • Allow courts the option to require repeat or serious drink drive offenders to use alcohol interlocks, after a mandated 90-day disqualification. Interlocks must be used for at least 12 months, and can only be removed where the offender shows a violation-free period of six months (reducing to three months if an approved alcohol assessment is also completed) and offenders will be subject to a zero BAC limit for the three years after the removal of their interlock.
  • Double the prison sentence for dangerous driving causing death.

Mr Joyce says offenders at this end of the spectrum are the government’s first target because of their high contribution to the fatality statistics.

“There is a hard core of drink - drivers who cannot separate their drinking from their driving.  The answer is technology like alcohol interlocks which can physically prevent them from driving.  The government will not tolerate continued and high-level offending.”

The legislation before Parliament also looks at the damage caused by drivers with a blood alcohol reading of between 0.05 and 0.08, by allowing police to measure the actual harm caused by those drivers.

When passed the legislation will allow police to provide to the Ministry of Transport the details of all drivers involved in fatal or serious injury crashes who have a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08 (50 milligrams and 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood or 250 and 400 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath).

“It is quite possible the data will support a lower adult limit, but we do need to collect that data first,” says Mr Joyce.

“What these statistics today show is that lowering the adult limit is no silver bullet.  The majority of these fatalities are caused by a hard-core of drink drivers who have either been convicted before or who are driving at levels far above the current drink drive limit.”




  1. max says:

    No matter how they try to defend their unwillingness to increase the alcohol limit, this targeting the worst offenders is still an “Ambulance at bottom of cliff” approach.

    While having an ambulance there will always be useful (some people WILL drive of the cliff, no matter what you do to prevent them, or how many times you fine them), it ignores that our drinking CULTURE (including such things as our low alcohol limit) is what causes most of the habitual drunks in the first place. They are just fixated with doing something, but not attacking the root cause. As one Herald editorial memorably noted it - this is a government careful to the point of cowardice.

  2. Nick M says:

    “There is a hard core of drink – drivers who cannot separate their drinking from their driving.”

    If as a society we want to separate drinking from driving, surely we would send a message by, well, separating drinking from driving; by having a zero-alcohol limit (or an effectively zero-alcohol limit, which is 0.02 and means any drink will put you over that limit). Yes, the majority of fatalities are caused by people over the current limit, but the problem is the attitude that it is ok to drink a little bit, then drive. Alcohol by it’s nature robs people of their self control, so it is inevitable that if we tell people it is ok to drink some alcohol before they drive, as long as it isn’t too much, then when they have had a few drinks, they will ask themselves the question “now, am I still ok to drive”, and may not be in any state to make a reasoned answer to that question. Much better if prior to starting drinking, they know that any alcohol whatsoever will disqualify them from being permitted to drive. Will it stop every drunk-driver from getting behind the wheel? Probably not. Will it reduce the number of drunks on the road? Probably. Will it create a mindset in people that alcohol and driving don’t mix whatsoever and reduce the number of people who will get to the point of being repeat high range drink drivers? Almost certainly.

    A quick check of Wikipedia suggests the following countries have a zero alcohol limit:

    Saudi Arabia
    United Arab Emirates
    Czech Republic

    It suggests the following have a limit of 0.02

    Let’s get real on our stance, drop the limit, and make sure that the message being put across is that if you drink at all, then drive, you are a bloody idiot.

  3. Matt says:

    One thing that Joyce is ignoring in making these pronouncements is that the point at which you have trouble deciding if you’ve had too much to be able to drive is already beyond the proposed limit. By that time your judgement is so impaired that you think “another one won’t hurt.”
    If the limit is lowered to be closer to the “two drinks” theory, a lot of people won’t start drinking because they’ll be worried about being over.

    Given that National is making this a party vote issue, despite liquor law traditionally being a conscience vote issue, one cannot help but wonder just how much money they’re getting from the liquor industry.

  4. max says:

    “Will it reduce the number of drunks on the road? Probably.”

    It will CERTAINLY do so. Unless of course, New Zealand research finds that we are totally different from any other human ethnicity on the planet.


Leave a Comment


XHTML: You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>