Police welcome new tough drink-driver legislation

LEIGHTON KEITH
Last updated 05:00 20/12/2012

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Taranaki police have welcomed new legislation aimed at combating repeat drunk drivers.

The new rules include alcohol interlock systems, a three-year "zero alcohol" licence sanction for repeat offenders, a zero blood alcohol limit for drivers under 20 and doubling the maximum penalty for drunk or drugged driving causing death.

The measures became sentencing options for judges three months ago.

Senior Sergeant Allan Whaley said police were pleased with the new measures and would apply to have the options considered at sentencings.

"We welcome any legislation that supports our stance against drunk driving," Mr Whaley said. "We will be using every tool or relevant piece of legislation provided to us."

Mr Whaley remained positive the new measures could discourage recidivist offenders.

"We hope that it will be an extra deterrent for drunk drivers."

The Taranaki Daily News anti-drink driving campaign, run in conjunction with police, finishes on Saturday.

Police statistics show more than 50 per cent of drunk drivers caught during the campaign had a breath alcohol level of greater than 600 micrograms, the legal limit is 400mcg, while 80 per cent who elected a blood test were twice the legal limit of 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood.

The highest breath alcohol reading was 1190mcg, recorded at 2pm by a 43-year-old Waitara man who had 10 previous convictions for drunk driving and was indefinitely disqualified from driving, and the highest blood reading was 246mg.

"It just shows what a very difficult problem it is that we are up against," Mr Whaley said.

He said police questioned whether the public believed that these high levels were acceptable within the Taranaki community.

A Government report shows nationally 16 drunk drivers have been issued with the interlocks.

The Automobile Association says it will continue to call for the interlocks to be made mandatory for all drunk drivers caught a second time.

ALCOHOL INTERLOCK DEVICES

Introduced in September, the devices are similar to a breathalyser and are connected to a vehicle's starting system.

Before the vehicle can be started, the driver must provide a zero-level breath sample and if the test is failed the engine will not start.

Judges have the option of imposing them at sentencing on repeat drink drivers, who can apply for a special licence and pay the $150 cost of fitting the locks after a three-month disqualification period.

Ministry of Transport figures estimate about 10,000 people nationwide a year would be eligible for the alcohol-interlock programme.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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