Five charged over unsafe drivers
Knowingly letting a drunk, drugged or disqualified driver get behind the wheel of your car is like giving someone a "loaded gun", say police.
Senior Sergeant Scott Richardson said car owners needed to be aware they had a responsibility to ensure their vehicle was driven safely.
This year, in Canterbury alone, police had charged five people with aiding and abetting after allowing a drunk or drugged person to drive their vehicle, Richardson told Radio New Zealand.
Today, The Press reported that a 22-year-old Christchurch man was charged in relation to a fatal crash in Rangiora six months ago - even though he was the passenger in the car.
He was the owner of the vehicle and was allegedly aware the driver, Tarrin Kayne Alderson, 18, was drunk.
He is to appear in court on December 12 charged with aiding and abetting someone driving under the influence of alcohol.
Richardson likened the responsibility of owning a vehicle to that of owning a gun.
"It's a dangerous thing and you need to take care who they lend it to."
"Most people would accept that if you handed someone a loaded gun who was drunk that you'd be held accountable for the consequences of anything they did and a car is no different, it's a tonne and a half of metal."
Owners not only had a legal duty to ensure their vehicles were warranted and registered but to ensure the vehicle was not driven by a drunk or unlicensed driver, said Richardson.
"It probably happens more often than you think. It's probably something that the officers who are pre-occupied dealing with the drivers of the cars don't turn their mind to very often but we're just raising the issue with our staff and also with the public to get that awareness out there to hopefully stop some of these tragedies from happening.
"The majority of drunk drivers we catch obviously are the owners of the cars as well. What we're looking at is holding the owners of cars who are passengers or let these people drive their cars holding them to account."
Richardson said it could be "problematic" proving someone knowingly let a drunk, drugged or disqualified person drive their vehicle if they were not in the car.
"But if they're in the car and have been drinking with the person all night it's not rocket science . . . It's a fairly reasonable assumption that they should've had a fair idea that this person was over the limit."
He did not believe an owner of a car could argue their judgement in letting someone drive drunk was clouded by them also being intoxicated.
"It's not really much of a defence. The fact you're intoxicated should've been even more of an indication that if you're intoxicated clearly the person you're drinking with is in the same boat."
He said there had also been cases in Christchurch this year where passengers were charged for inciting and encouraging the driver during a police pursuit.
POLICE TAKE HARD-LINE STANCE
Canterbury road policing manager Inspector Al Stewart said police were taking a hard-line stance.
His comments followed the charging of the friend of a teenager killed in a crash in Rangiora on May 25.
Tarrin Kayne Alderson, 18, of Rangiora, was driving when the vehicle apparently veered left on to a grass shoulder, overcorrected, and went into a spin, hitting a concrete power pole in Flaxton Rd about 1.45am.
"The owner of the vehicle, who was allegedly aware the driver was drunk, was a passenger," Stewart said.
Alderson died from his injuries.
Only the 22-year-old man, now charged, was wearing a seatbelt, which police said saved his life.
Stewart said many vehicle owners were not aware they were criminally liable for allowing drunk drivers to use their cars.
"This is serious stuff. If you knowingly allow a person who is incapable of having proper control of your vehicle to take it out on the roads and place all other road users in danger, you are as liable as the driver," he said.
"Investigations into serious and fatal crashes [are] showing us that in a lot of cases the owner of vehicles - family members, friends, workmates or associates - are aware that a driver . . . was incapable, but failed to do anything to stop it, or worse, facilitated the driver into the vehicle.
"This is just unacceptable."
Passengers found to have incited or encouraged drivers to flee from police would also be charged, Stewart said.
In September, three passengers in a vehicle that failed to stop for police were convicted of aiding and abetting and were given sentences of three months' disqualification and 80 hours of community work, he said.
"We will look at the actions of all passengers in a vehicle."
Alderson's boss, Simon Thelning, was surprised by news of the charges brought against the passenger.
"[He] has suffered enough, losing his mate and being not too well himself either," he said.
Alderson's mother, Traci Ellis, said charging the 22-year-old was "not going to change anything".
"I only have one question - why was Kayne driving his car? I don't think I'm ever going to get an answer to that," she said.
"I just want lessons learnt from it."
She said she knew her son had alcohol in his system at the time of the crash and was driving on a learner's licence.
Stewart said car owners convicted of allowing drunk, drugged or disqualified drivers to use their vehicle could face maximum penalties of a $4500 fine, three months' imprisonment and six months disqualification from driving.