Drink-driving deaths stay steady despite lower alcohol limit

Police hoped the lower drink-driving limit would mean they attended fewer alcohol-related fatal crashes, but so far ...
MURRAY WILSON/ FAIRFAX NZ

Police hoped the lower drink-driving limit would mean they attended fewer alcohol-related fatal crashes, but so far there has been little change in the figures.

Alcohol-related road deaths have remained steady over the past six months, despite the cut in the drink-driving limit.

Critics in the hospitality industry say the early figures back up fears that the new limit would have an effect only on those drivers who were already behaving responsibly, and would make little difference to repeat offenders.

The Automobile Association said there remained a hard-core group of recidivist drink-drivers whom the new rules may not have influenced. "We are seeing an increase in the percentage of those people that we've caught before ... over 50 per cent," spokesman Mike Noon said.

The law changed on December 1, cutting the limit from 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood to 50mg, and from 400 micrograms of alcohol per litreof breath to 250mcg.

In 2010, the Ministry of Transport estimated a lower limit might save up to 30 lives a year, though it later re-evaluated the figures and reduced the estimate to three a year.

In the first half-year since the law change, there were 33 alcohol-related deaths, and eight in which alcohol was suspected but not confirmed as a factor, making a total of 41.

In the same period a year earlier, the total was 35, figures released under the Official Information Act show.

Since January, 166 people have died on the roads, up by 12 from the same time last year.

Superintendent Steve Greally, national road policing manager, said he would be disappointed if ultimately the new drink-drive limit had no effect on road deaths.

However, one positive was that the number of people detected over the old alcohol limit had dropped by 17 per cent in the first four months. "We haven't seen the same ... in terms of fatal crashes at this point, but it is early in the piece ... It does take time for some people to learn what the lower levels mean for them.

Ad Feedback

"One person that dies on our roads is still one person too many. It's horrific, going to the scene of a crash involving serious injury or death."

Noon agreed there had been positive effects from the new limit: "Overall, the driving population is less impaired, which is a good thing."

But repeat drink-drivers remained a problem, and the AA believed the only thing that would stop many of them reoffending was a breathalyser lock fitted to their vehicles.

Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Bruce Robertson said the early numbers appeared to support what he had expected all along. "It was unlikely to make any difference to reducing alcohol-related harm on the road, but it would just make responsible people even more responsible.

"That's what we believe has happened."

An industry report released this week showed the law change had resulted in reduced spending at bars and restaurants. Robertson hoped that, against that background, the Government would evaluate whether the policy was effective.

New Zealand Initiative economist Eric Crampton said the number of fatal crashes involving alcohol had declined by about six a year over the past three decades. But factors including traffic levels, weather and chance resulted in a lot of variability, or "noise", in year-on-year data, and even more so in a period of only six months.

"If the reduction in the drink-driving limit had a really, really big real effect, we would be able to tell that quickly. If it only had a small real effect, it would take longer to pull that effect out of noisy data."

Ministry of Transport land transport safety manager Leo Mortimer said it would wait until it had three years of data before making a call on the success or failure of the law change. "Looking at the overall impact the changes have had will be a longer-term evaluation."

Results already had shown some drivers had changed their drink-driving behaviours before and after the change in December. "We do want to see that being translated into lower deaths."

The ministry was also reviewing drink-driving sanctions, including breathalyser locks for repeat offenders, this year as another measure to reduce accidents.

In the month immediately after the law change, 806 people were caught between the new and old limits. That figure fell to 692 in March, according to police.

 - Stuff

Comments

Ad Feedback
special offers
Auckland

West Auckland winners in new government video

Jacinda Ardern has lead Labour back into power

Jacinda Ardern has named two West Auckland MPs in her executive team.

Another Kiwi champion?

Scott Seamer, who has ridden Group I winners on both sides of the Tasman, believes Bonneval will win the Caulfield Cup.

He's part of New Zealand racing history and this Australian jockey believes another Kiwi star can deliver at Caulfield.

Escaped prisoner still on the run

A remand prisoner escaped from Auckland City Hospital on Thursday while undergoing treatment (file photo).

It's been over 30 hours since a woman snuck out of hospital while under Corrections supervision.

Cup numbers disappoint

Lazarus remains a $1.90 favourite for the New Zealand Trotting Cup.

It's New Zealand's richest and most iconic race but it's almost certain not to have a full field.

Wellington

A life without letters

Hamish and Heather Shoebridge have worked together to help Hamish improve his reading and writing ability.

After 40 years of marriage, Hamish Shoebridge is finally able to write in his wife's birthday card.

Vaping fears evaporate

The Ministry of Health believes e-cigarettes have the potential to make a contribution to the Smokefree 2025 goal.

The Ministry of Health now supports vaping as a way to reach the Smokefree 2025 target.

Labour weekend weather video

Wellington weather will be a mixed bag this weekend.

In true spring fashion, the region's Labour Weekend weather will bring a bit of everything.

Passenger train hits truck

The train crossing at Norman Ave Carterton where a train collided with a logging trailer.

No injuries after passenger train and truck crash outside Masterton.

Canterbury

SH1 rebuild to continue into 2018

Work at Ohau point on State Highway 1 on Thursday. The site is one of the critical parts of the rebuild.

Night-time closures, unsealed sections and lane closures will greet travellers when the quake-damaged SH1 reopens in December.

A new rebuild for Chch

Incoming Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has signalled a suite of new policies for Christchurch under a Labour-led Government.

ANALYSIS: Change is coming to Christchurch. The rub will be in how much.

Mystic predicts Ardern victory video

Palm reader Ron Griffiths says Jacinda Ardern has strong life and fate lines.

A year ago Ron Griffiths looked closely at Jacinda Ardern's palm and predicted she would become our PM.

Row over $1.3m stopbank

Flooding at the Haast Bar, north of Franz Josef, after the Waiho River burst its banks in July 2016.

A $1.3m stop bank to protect Franz Josef township is near completion despite warnings it may be "ineffective" and "unsustainable".

Waikato

Wheelie boys rile police

Hamilton has a new gang the H-Town Wheelie Boyz.

You can recognise them from the gang-like patch, and the fact they're doing wheelies in traffic.

Crash spot work eyed

The Gordonton and Thomas Road intersection was the site of 12 crashes in nine months.

Intersection at Gordonton and Thomas roads could get a roundabout or lights.

Anxiety, elation in PM's hometown

Kiwitahi farmer Paddy O'Shea and his 10 year old daughter Danielle. O'Shea was disappointed with Peters' decision to ...

The new government means good times ahead or off to hell in a hand-cart, depending on who you ask in Morrinsville.

Students abandon pets

The Waikato SPCA is expecting a lot more abandoned cats like Necky as students move away in November.

Students are dumping their pets as they head away from their study cities.

Taranaki

Fitzell brings up 50 years

Taranaki area commander Pat Fitzell has worn many hats in his 50 years with the fire service.

He's seen a few changes in his time but isn't about to hang up his boots just yet.

Brown baths be gone

Inglewood resident Larissa Linley and her daughter Ava Roberts, 9 months, have grown tired of the town's brown water issues.

This small town's funny-tasting, strange-smelling brown water is about to get cleaned up.

New Government divides region

Aaron Huston preferred a National-led Government.

There were cheers and tears at the news of a new Government.

Three MPs have no governing voice

Prime minister elect Jacinda Ardern arrives to Labour caucus to rapturous applause from her ministers.

Work hard and keep in the headlines, Taranaki MPs advised

Manawatu

Building her body

Jose Marshall has gone from learning how to walk again to competing at the bodybuilding nationals.

Jose Marshall was almost killed in a crash. Now, she's competing at the bodybuilding nationals.

Finally in Cabinet

Palmerston North Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway says he's ready for the challenge of Cabinet.

Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway will join Jacinda Ardern's Cabinet.

Lundy's key issues

Mark Lundy, pictured at his 2015 retrial, has twice been convicted of murdering his wife Christine and their 7-year-old ...

We break down the key points from Mark Lundy's Court of Appeal hearing.

Broadway's burgeoning tech hub

Beta Solutions chief executive Terry Southern said the former Farmers building offered a good space to recreate the ...

There's a hive of tech activity happening behind the walls of the former Farmers building.

Nelson

Makos fans jet into enemy territory

Originair flight OG3313 Captain Warwick Wild shows his support for the Tasman Makos before a flight to New Plymouth today.

Look out Ferdinand - there'll be a few more fins up in the crowd at Yarrow Stadium this weekend.

Tale of two MPs

Nick Smith says National will be a formidable force in opposition.

The top of the south looks set to swap one cabinet minister for another.

Salisbury takes heart 

Salisbury School at Richmond is the only national single-sex residential school for girls with intellectual disabilities.

Could the long fight to save Salisbury School be over with the change of government?

Sanctuary given $150k

The Brook Waimarama Sanctuary says water testing shows no poison residue has been detected in water tests following the ...

The Brook Sanctuary has recieved $150,000 in funding from the NCC.

Marlborough

Building blocks for a happy family

Vanessa Hopkins is in charge of paperwork while Mathew, left, and Glenn drive heavy machinery to lay and smooth out the ...

Workers on the highway rebuild are like one big family. Especially these three, who are family.

The cats nobody wants

Manager, Kaycee Polkinghorne (pictured) said sending the cats to Wellington gave them a better chance of adoption.

Thirteen cats took an early morning flight to Wellington on Saturday hoping for a fresh start.

Doggie Gold Card with benefits

Winston Peters may leave a political legacy with pooches at Marlborough if a doggie Gold Card goes ahead.

Winston Peters may unwittingly leave a political legacy at Marlborough as councillors consider a Gold Card for dogs.

The long and winding dead end

The Acheron Rd, through Molesworth Station, is open again, but only from the Marlborough end.

It's a long, dusty through-road that doesn't go through anymore. The Molesworth road reopens ... kind of.

South Canterbury

It's coming down

Owner of the Hydro Grand, Allan Booth.

Timaru's Hydro Grand Hotel could be reduced to rubble by the end of November.

Disease 'contained'

22092017 News Photo: TOM LEE/STUFF - Dairy Cow, Farming, Fonterra, Cattle. Milking, Dawn Morning.

Ministry for Primary Industries confident Mycoplasma bovis is contained.

'Cautious optimism'

Federated Farmers South Canterbury chairman Mark Adams.

Hopes and fears have been raised by prominent South Canterbury figures now our new Government has been revealed.

Farewell to commissioner

Fairlie Primary School commissioner Terri Johnstone has said farewell to the school.

Fairlie Primary School is in a state of self-governence once more.

Otago

Boy seriously hurt in crash

A rescue helicopter lands at the crash site.

The long weekend is off to a bad start in the South Island, with a three-vehicle crash leaving a boy with serious injuries.

Joint approach trialed to freedom camping enforcement in the Catlins

Freedom camping will be more heavily monitored in the Catlins over summer, with a jointly-funded approach to be trialed ...

Otago-Southland authorities join forces to control freedom camping in the Catlins.

MP wants to get 'stuff done'

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker said he will lobby for tourism levy and better transport system in Queenstown.

 "When an MP phones up departments they treat you a lot different than an average Joe Bloggs," Hamish Walker said.

Southern temperatures soar

Archie Livingstone, 6, of Cromwell, cools down at the Lowburn Inlet on Thursday when temperatures reached 28.6degC  - ...

Sunhats are out and sprinklers working over time as record October temperatures hit the south.

Southland

Burnoff out of control

Helicopters from Southern Lakes and Te Anau Helicopters using monsoon buckets to fight a large grass fire at Mt Prospect ...

Fire crews are attending an out-of-control burnoff near Te Anau.

Fishing for all

Greg Sheppard, from Te Anau's, Trout Observatory releases a rainbow trout into McGregor's Pond near Te Anau, under the ...

Southerners are spoilt for choice this weekend in terms of things to do.

Southland fraudster sentenced

The Invercargill District Court.

A Southland fraudster who admitted 16 dishonesty charges has been sentenced to community detention.

A passion for the immortal Mustang

Wayne Fabish, of the Taranaki Mustang Club, spent four years building up his 67 Mustang, which he is showing for the ...

The 38th National Mustang Convention taking place in Invercargill this weekend.

Ad Feedback