So, National has failed to act on drink driving. The Director of the National Addiction Centre calls it “scandalous”.
While recidivist and youth drink drivers will, from early next year, be permitted to drive only if they have consumed no alcohol, the rest of the population will be able to continue to drive as intoxicated, as merrily and as foolishly as ever. Yet, New Zealand has a devastating road toll, and alcohol consumption is a major contributing cause. There seems to be no good reason not to lower the breath-alcohol level, and every reason to do so. The government’s failure of leadership will cost money and lives.
Why, then, the back down? Because drink driving is the common man’s crime – one that, among well-to-do middle class people, looms larger than most other criminal offences. This is why Steven Joyce has decided to stall legislative change to the breath-alcohol limit pending the results of New Zealand-specfic “research”. The Minister can’t really think that New Zealand is so different from Australia or Europe (where blood-alcohol limits are generally 50mg/100ml, as opposed to our 80mg/ml), or that New Zealanders are, in any scientifically significant way, so different from Europeans or Australians that we need to do our own, special research to find out whether a lower breath-alcohol level would work to lower the road toll. And anyway, what’s with National’s sudden fetish for evidence-based law-making: double bunking, anyone? National standards? 90-day legislation? Truth is, Steven Joyce knows that if the drink driving net is widened, lots more people will find themselves in court. Some of those people will look a bit like him. And that won’t win him, or his Party, votes.