Booze laws not working

12:10, Feb 13 2009

Desperate police are proposing radical measures to curb an increase in drink-driving, including publicly shaming repeat offenders and crushing cars.

Other hardline police proposals include drying out accused drink-drivers in cells, automatically fingerprinting drivers who fail breath tests, banning alcopop drinks, hiring more frontline officers and introducing random roadside drug testing.

The steps emerged from a police brainstorming session, and come alongside calls by police to lower the drink-driving limit, raise the driving age and increase sentences for drink-drivers.

Details of the proposals are included in documents obtained by The Dominion Post under the Official Information Act and hint at an expected crackdown on motorists who continue to drive drunk.

The proposals will be considered as the Transport Ministry moves to write a new road safety strategy for the next decade, ready for implementation next year.

The strategy is designed to improve road safety, setting out an action plan for reducing the number of deaths and injuries. It will look at the major causes of serious road trauma, including drink-driving, speed and unsafe roads.

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Transport Minister Steven Joyce said all potential solutions were on the table "all these things have got to be thought through".

He was aware of the proposals stemming from the brainstorming session. "It's appropriate to consider as many things as we can. We've got to listen to what the enforcement officers think. They are the people on the frontline."

The Government is tipped to lower the blood-alcohol limit for drivers as part of the strategy.

Justice Minister Simon Power said last week the strategy would review the legal limit of 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.

Police support lowering the limit to 50mg of alcohol for every 100ml of blood, the same as many other countries, including Australia, Argentina, France, Germany, South Africa and the Netherlands.

They also support a zero-tolerance drinking policy for drivers aged under 20 on learner and restricted licences.

Mr Joyce said he had an open mind about whether the alcohol limit should change. " I think we need to have a debate."

A discussion document is expected to go to the public this year.

Police brass are concerned that the drink-driving message is not getting through. The number of alcohol or drug-related road deaths increased for the third year running in 2007.

A Transport Ministry report last year painted a picture of more crashes, more casualties and a drink-drive culture that continues unabated despite millions of dollars being poured into enforcement and education.

Road policing researcher John Locker recommends lowering the alcohol limit. "As a wealth of research demonstrates, one of the chief mechanisms by which the goal of improved road safety can be achieved is through a reduction of existing blood alcohol content levels," he wrote in a 2007 report.

The Dominion Post