Lower alcohol limit mooted for motorcyclists

PAUL EASTON
Last updated 12:30 06/03/2014
Motorcyclists are stopped at a police checkpoint in Waimate during the 2013 March Hare rally.
JOHN BISSET/Fairfax NZ

CHECKPOINT: Motorcyclists are stopped at a police checkpoint in Waimate during the 2013 March Hare rally.

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A road-safety group has asked a parliamentary select committee to recommend a lower drink-driving limit for motorcyclists.

The transport and industrial relations select committee is today considering submissions on the Land Transport Amendment Bill.

The bill lowers the adult breath-alcohol limit from 400 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath to 250mcg.

Drivers who record between 251mcg and 400mcg will face a $200 infringement fee and receive 50 demerit points.

Drivers in this range would not be able to elect an evidential blood test.

Traffic Institute of New Zealand president Andy Foster asked the committee to consider developing a lower drink-driving limit for motorcyclists, "given the level of care and dexterity needed to ride a motorbike".

"Even if you don't do it now, it's something you could consider," he said.

The group represents local government on roading matters. Foster is a Wellington City councillor.

Committee member Cam Calder, a motorcyclist, said he could not back the move.

"I think it would raise questions about their rights," he said.

Motorcyclists accepted that they had more chance of injury than other road users, he said.

Foster said crash data showed motorcycle accidents were a "real problem" on New Zealand roads.

Police Association vice-president Luke Shadbolt said having a different drink-drive limit for motorcyclists would add a layer of complexity to road laws.

"It's better to say, 'Here are the rules'," he said.

Law Society law reform committee member Graeme Edgeler told the select committee that plans to drop blood tests in some cases would remove a chance for drivers to challenge the result of a breath test.

"This may breach the presumption of innocence," he said.

Shadbolt said roadside breath tests were accurate.

Blood testing was outdated, complicated and tied up police for hours, he said.

Drivers should have the option of accepting the results of a roadside breath test, he said.

"I suspect most would accept a fine, a stand-down period, demerit points and move on."

More resources could then be poured into policing and education, he said.

"We can save a lot of time and money," he said.

The bill received qualified support from submitters.

Automobile Association policy adviser Ben Young said more could be done, especially by introducing mandatory interlock devices for repeat drink-drivers.

An interlock requires the driver to blow into a mouthpiece at the start and during a journey.

The vehicle will not start if drivers have any alcohol in their system.

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