Better data would mean safer roads - audit

Roads could be made safer if police improve the way they collect and report data about catching drink drivers.

In a report released today, deputy auditor-general Phillippa Smith said police enforcement of drink-driving laws had a positive impact on the road toll in the past two decades.

A decrease in alcohol-related crashes - particularly in recent years - corresponded to an increase in breath testing, while fewer people thought they could get away with drink-driving, Ms Smith said.

However, those conducting the audit could not establish whether police were as effective as they could be, because the information collected by officers was inadequate. 

''Police need to improve how they assess and report on how effectively and efficiently they enforce drink-driving laws,'' Ms Smith.

''They need to monitor indicators consistently over time to better understand their performance. 

''This will allow the police to identify where gains can be made to have the best results.''

The audit into police's enforcing of drink driving laws was carried out establish why the reduction of alcohol-related road deaths had not matched those caused by speeding from 2001 to 2010.

It showed that New Zealand had developed a multi-agency approach to tackling drink driving through breath-testing, ad campaigns, road layout and eliminating roadside hazards, Ms Smith said. 

Police officers had a clear understanding of a national drink-driving strategy - based on international research for deterring and catching drinking drink-drivers.

''Our auditors observed police officers strictly enforcing drink-driving laws, using consistent processes for testing drivers, and dealing with offenders and treating those apprehended with dignity and respect. 

''Police officers use local knowledge, experience, and professional judgement to react to changing circumstances and priorities.''

Agencies should co-operate better to understand how enforcing drink-driving laws can be combined with activities to achieve better results, she said.

Auditor-General Lyn Provost was previously a deputy commissioner of police, and did not take part in the work because of a conflict of interest.

Contact Blair Ensor
Police reporter
Twitter: @blairensor

The Dominion Post