Tackling New Zealand’s drink driving problem

  • Steven Joyce

Cabinet has today signed off on a package of measures designed to significantly reduce the impact of drink drivers on our roads.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce says alcohol is a factor in almost one in three fatal crashes and current policies are not having a big enough impact, particularly where repeat offenders and young offenders are concerned.

Legislation enabling the following will be in place by early next year:

  •  A zero drink drive limit for recidivist drink drivers
  • A zero drink drive limit for drivers under 20 years of age
  •  Much tougher penalties for serious offences causing death and drink driving causing death
  • The introduction of alcohol interlocks for repeat drink-drivers.

Cabinet has also asked for more work to be done on penalties for the most serious repeat drink drive offenders.

"By targeting those identified as most likely to break the law - namely those with a history of offending and young people - we're confident we'll have a significant impact," says Mr Joyce.

The Minister says 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.

"Part of the research will be about ascertaining the actual number of serious and fatal crashes caused by those drivers with a blood or breath alcohol level between 0.05 and 0.08. 

"The government will make a law change to allow that data to be collected by Police in these crashes."

This research will be carried out over a period of two years following the law change.

Mr Joyce says the argument around the adult blood alcohol limit is a finely balanced one. 

"We need to ensure that New Zealanders understand the difference between 0.05 and 0.08 and what the likely impact a change would have on the road toll.

"Most New Zealanders, when asked, agree that the drink drive limit should be at a level of alcohol consumption that equates to a 0.05 limit.  However, when you ask them whether the current 0.08 limit should be lowered to 0.05, they are split on the issue.

"I've said all along as Transport Minister that road safety measures only work if they have the broad support of road users - and we'd want to be sure New Zealanders understand the benefits of a change and fully support it before proceeding."

Mr Joyce says it's clear that we have a sizeable drink driving problem in New Zealand. 

"If we can get it under control, we'll see a significant reduction in the overall road toll."