Waikato drunk-driver stats down by a third

Police are catching fewer and fewer drunk or drugged drivers on New Zealand's roads in a long-term positive trend that the country's top road policing manager puts down to a variety of factors.

Detailed data released by New Zealand police show that over the past five years there has been a 24 per cent drop in offences nationally and a 35 per cent drop in Waikato.

In the breakdown, the total number of drinkers caught behind the wheel fell from 35,962 in 2009 to 27,295 in 2013. In Waikato the trend was more pronounced, with a drop from 3414 in 2009 to 2200 in the 2013 calendar year.

National manager road policing Superintendent Carey Griffiths said the reduction in alcohol offences is a "positive" trend across the country.

"That has happened as the number of breath tests has gone up, which will be a factor. Also, we've seen reductions in the number of younger people drinking and driving, which is down to the lowered, zero blood alcohol level."

Drivers under 20 have a zero level.

If a young driver is found to have a blood alcohol concentration between zero and 0.03 they receive a fine of $200 and 50 demerit points.

Beyond that threshhold, drivers are dealt with by the courts.

Both of these offences are recorded in the police data.

Griffiths said while more analysis is needed on the figures, police have noticed, anecdotally, that drivers had changed their drinking patterns in response to the Government's announcements of the lower blood alcohol levels.

The Government has introduced the Land Transport Amendment Bill 2013 to lower adult drink-driving limits.

It will lower the adult breath alcohol limit from 400mcg of alcohol per litre of breath, to 250mcg. The blood alcohol limit will reduce from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, to 50mg.

Drivers who commit an offence between 251-400mcg of breath will face a $200 infringement fee and get 50 demerit points.

The proposed lower limits are expected to come into force from December 1, 2014.

Waikato Times