Driving age to increase to 16

JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 17:25 05/05/2011
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Parliament has passed legislation that will lift the driving age to 16, decrease the blood alcohol limit for under-20s to zero and strengthen the restricted licence test.

Land Transport Amendment Bill passed its final reading at Parliament this evening. The driving will officially move from 15 to 16 on August 1, this year.

The bill was expected to pass earlier this week but disappeared off Parliament's order paper on Tuesday when ACT was in turmoil over a change in leadership.

The legislation also sets a zero blood-alcohol limit for drivers aged under-20.

Other measures in the bill include:

* Tougher restricted licence testing;

* Zero blood alcohol limits for repeat drink drivers;

* Allowing courts the option to require repeat or serious drink drive offenders to use alcohol interlocks, after a mandated 90-day disqualification;

* Doubling the the maximum sentence for dangerous driving causing death, from five years to 10.

The legislation was controversial because it did not lower the adult drink driving limit from the current 800 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood to 500mg/ml. Officials had argued strongly for a lower limit, saying it would save money and lives.

Instead, police are mandated by the legislation for two years to collect data on the blood alcohol levels in vehicle crashes. The Government will review the limit once the data as collected.

"Raising the licence age from 15 to 16, and measures to enable the restricted driving test to be strengthened reflect the disproportionate number of fatal and serious crashes involving young people," Transport Minister Steven Joyce said.

Transitional arrangements will be in place for drivers aged under 16 when the driving age increases. Other provisions will come into force over the next 12 months.

ACT had previously split its vote on the legislation, with Sir Roger Douglas and Heather Roy voting against amendments put up by Transport Minister Steven Joyce. If the remaining three ACT MPs had voted against key parts of the bill, it would not have passed.

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