Alcohol abuse is a serious issue in our communities in many ways. One major aspect of this problem is driving under the influence of alcohol. This contains severe risks for drivers, passengers and other innocent members of the public.
Compared to when I was a young man, cars are now faster and more accessible. With the lowering of the purchase age of alcohol from 20 to 18 in December 1999, alcohol is also more accessible for younger people. It has made the late teens and early 20s a more dangerous time of life, especially for our young men.
Before you think I'm just bagging young people, read the facts. A driver aged 30 or more with 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood is about 16 times as likely to be involved in a fatal crash as the same driver with a zero blood alcohol level. For a 15-19 year old driver, that risk is 86 times greater.
Alcohol and cars are a lethal mix for teenagers, especially young men. The facts speak for themselves. Of the alcohol/drug-affected drivers in fatal crashes, 83 per cent were male.
As part of a series of measures, on August 7, 2011, the legal breath and blood limit for those less than 20 years was lowered to zero.
For every 100 alcohol or drug-impaired drivers or riders who died in road crashes, 54 of their passengers and 23 sober road users died with them.
One of the Law Commission's recommendations was to lower the alcohol limit from 80 milligrams to 50mg of alcohol to 100 millilitres of blood (BAC 0.05) for drivers over 20.
While the National Party is committed to reducing alcohol harm, it didn't support reducing the alcohol level to 50mg for over 20s until there is evidential data to support that decision will have a substantial effect on reducing fatalities.
The collection of research information on the number of drivers involved in fatal or serious injury crashes, whose alcohol levels were between BAC 0.05 and 0.08, began in August 2011.
New Zealand courts now have the ability to require serious or repeat drink-drivers to have alcohol interlock devices fitted to their vehicles. This is a device similar to a breathalyser connected to a vehicle's starting system and the driver must provide a breath sample.
Interlocks in New Zealand will be effectively set for a zero limit.
Repeat drink-drive offenders and first-time offenders convicted of driving with blood alcohol levels double the adult limit can be given an alcohol interlock disqualification at the discretion of the courts. Offenders will bear the cost of fitting and monitoring the interlocks.
All these measures are part of an effort to tackle the harm caused by drink-driving, which includes a doubled maximum penalty for drink or drugged driving causing death.
The reckless actions of those who drink too much and get behind the wheel needs to stop and these measures will work to reduce the danger to people on our roads.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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