It is a year since a new law to reduce drink-driving among young drivers was introduced. Neil Ratley investigates if the law has made a difference in the south.
It was a tough new law to reduce teenage drink-driving, and it worked. But young drivers in the south are still struggling to get the zero tolerance message, southern police say.
Figures released by Southern District police show the new laws are not having the impact in the south they have had nationally.
National policing figures obtained by Fairfax under the Official Information Act show in the first nine months of the new law coming into force on August 7 last year, 3091 youths aged 15-19 were convicted for drink-driving.
The figure for the 12 months before the law change was 6414.
However, since the inception of the Zero Tolerance policy apprehension rates in the southern district have remained static.
Between August 7, 2011 and June 26, 2012 total convictions for youth drink-driving in the Southern District totalled 413 with Southland topping the list with 198.
In 2010, the figure was 443. In 2011 it was 472.
The Southland Times court reports show 25 drivers under 20 were convicted in Invercargill District Court for drink-driving in the past three months compared with 36 during the same time last year, before the Zero Tolerance law came into effect.
Senior Sergeant John Pine, of Southland road policing, said there were still too many young drivers putting their lives at risk.
An operation targeting drink-driving on the weekend netted seven drivers above the legal alcohol limit, including two drivers under 20, he said.
"It was very disappointing to still see young drivers getting behind the wheel with alcohol in their system," he said.
The new law left no room for ambiguity, Mr Pine said.
"Zero tolerance means no alcohol," he said.
The battle to get the message through and decrease the number of young drivers drink-driving would always be a priority for southern police, Mr Pine said.
"We have one of the highest rates of traffic operations targeting drink-driving in the country and are committed to educating young drivers," he said.
Acting Sergeant Clint Wright, of Gore, said some young drivers had changed their behaviour but others continued to ignore the new law, which was disappointing.
"There are certainly young people still choosing to drink and drive," he said.
"The kids we have pulled over have all known they should not have consumed any alcohol. It was not a surprise to them," Mr Wright said.
Sergeant Greg Smith, of Winton, said it had been business as usual during the first year of the Zero Tolerance policy for drivers under 20.
"Some weekends were good and others bad," he said.
The new laws were not a magic pill to solve the issue, Mr Smith said.
"We are still catching young drivers."
It was hoped the policy would be the first step in a gradual change in the behaviour and attitude of young drivers, Mr Smith said.
UNDER-20 DRINK-DRIVING BY THE NUMBERS
In nine months since zero alcohol limit was brought in for the under-20s total convictions for drink-driving – 3091
In 12 months before the law change total convictions for drink-driving – 6414
In the period from August 7, 2011, to June 26, 2012:
Total convictions for drink-driving – 413
Southland - 198
Dunedin - 112
Otago Rural - 103
Total convictions for drink-driving in 2010 – 443
Total convictions for drink-driving in 2011 – 472
Source: NZ Police
- © Fairfax NZ News
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