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Hard core drunk drivers

Written By: - Date published: 9:01 am, November 15th, 2010 - 32 comments
Categories: alcohol, john key, leadership, national - Tags:

In April this year the Law Commission published a detailed report, “Alcohol in our lives: Curbing the harm”. The report has been described as creating “a once-in-a-generation opportunity” to address New Zealand’s sick drinking culture and its destructive consequences. But the Key government doesn’t want to act. To keep the alcohol lobby happy the Nats are going to ignore or water down the recommendations, or delay in the name of “further research”.

The result of this evasion is The Alcohol Reform Bill, which passed its first reading in Parliament on Thursday. Labour were quick to condemn it:

Labour’s justice spokeswoman, Lianne Dalziel, said the Government had squandered a once-in-a-generation opportunity and had “gutted” the Law Commission’s report which was the basis for the proposals.

“This bill doesn’t even begin to meet the challenge posed by the evidence that the Law Commission presented to the Government,” she said.

With respect to the headline issue of drunk driving, Key is refusing to implement the recommendation to lower the legal blood alcohol limit:

The call to lower the limit follows advice from the Ministry of Transport – with scientific support – that a drop would save up to 33 lives a year and prevent 686 injuries.

However, Transport Minister Steven Joyce has delayed a cut from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg in favour of more research.

Funny how the Nats are all for “research”, except when they are all for ignoring it (hello national standards). Funny how Joyce is so ignorant of the facts that he had to admit that his own figures make no sense. Anyway, The Herald, which has been running a “Two Drinks Max” campaign, has ripped in to Key’s inaction in the strongest possible terms:

Again justifying the need for research, Key said: “If we want New Zealanders to obey a new law, I think we’ve got to be able to go out and say ‘here’s the harm’.”

Here is the harm PM: More drivers are dying than necessary now. How much more blood do you want on your hands before the next election?


The latest Nat line on this must have been sent out over the weekend, because we had a rush of headlines trying to divert attention to the issue of the worst drink drivers: ‘Hard core’ of killers on our roads, and Drink-driving deaths due to ‘problem drivers’, and 72% of drink-driving deaths caused by problem drivers, and The real problem, and so on. The “logic” goes that since most deaths are caused by the worst drivers, we only need to focus on them. Naturally a quick techno-fix is preferred, “alcohol interlocks” on their vehicles

The stupidity of this argument would be funny if it wasn’t so serious. It is classic ambulance at the bottom of the cliff limited thinking. Why wait until we have problem drunk drivers and then try and pick up the pieces? Wouldn’t it be better to prevent people from becoming problem drunk drivers in the first place? There is no quick easy techno-fix. We need to change our drinking culture. Reducing the blood alcohol limit would be a big part of this change. Instead of the ambulance at the bottom, build the fence at the top. Do everything that we can to stop repeat drunk drivers before they start. All that it takes is a government with courage and vision…

32 comments on “Hard core drunk drivers ”

  1. higherstandard 1

    re:drink driving

    1. lower the limit to zero
    2. first offence loss of licence for 12 months
    3. second offence home detention for two years
    4. third offence death


    • jbanks 1.1

      I hope that you’re joking.

      Lowering the limit to zero is ridiculous.

      Home detention for repeat offenders would be a step in the right direction. NZ has a long history of being too lenient on repeat offenders.

      • higherstandard 1.1.1

        Why is lowering the limit to zero ridiculous ?

        Are people incapable of not having alcohol if they’re going to drive ?

        • jbanks

          Because it’s nanny-state overkill.

          Drivers with low alcohol levels are not the problem and those that are will drink regardless of the limit and so a zero limit will not stop them.

          • higherstandard

            jbanks does alcohol impair a driver’s ability ?

            Why on earth do we want to send the message out there that you can have x number of drinks and still be OK to drive, if one wants to drink that’s fine but you shouldn’t then get behind the wheel of a car

            • jbanks

              does alcohol impair a driver’s ability ?

              That entirely depends on how much. If a certain percentage of drivers in accidents have low levels of alcohol in their system this in no way necessitates that the alcohol is the “cause” of the accident.

              People can & do drink responsibly and safely.

              • Lats

                In fact I recall seeing some stats (link not at hand sadly) which suggested peoples reflexes/reaction times were in fact slightly improved with small quantities of alcohol (1 or 2 drinks) and then started to go the other way. I’ll see if I can dig that out if folk are interested enough.
                I’m actually not too certain that lowering from 0.08 to 0.05 will make that much difference. I’m prepared to be proven wrong, but my gut feeling is that in those accidents where alcohol is the causal factor the driver is likely to be over the existing limit already.

              • Vicky32

                My father was a recidivist drink-driver. I assure you we (his family) did not feel at all safe.
                The evil-ex was the same only worse. My father at least *tried* to be careful, he simply didn’t realise how impaired he was. The ex didn’t give a stuff.
                Zero tolerance, Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                • Lats

                  And lowering the drink driving limit will have what impact on recidivist offenders? I’m guessing none whatsoever. If they are prepared to flout the current laws changing the limit will not make a skerrick of difference.

                  • Vicky32

                    But such lowering will make it much easier for these people to get pinged without the usual excuses (I was only a bit over the limit, ossifer… etc..)
                    Also, it makes the argument of their family easier – “Dad, you could lose your licence!”
                    When my Dad lost his licence for 3 years his behaviour seriously changed. He got public transport to work, and he conscientiously obeyed the terms of his licence loss. I think he *wanted* that external discipline! He certainly benefitted from it.

                    • Lats

                      So your dad’s behaviour changed once he’d gotten caught. Against the current limit. That suggests to me that the current system works, it is the attitude of folk like your dad that is at fault.
                      I don’t know this for a fact, but I doubt very much if a plaintive “I was only a bit over the limit, ossifer” would do any good against police today, they seem to stick quite slavishly to the limit of 0.08. You test over that and you’re in trouble, excuses or not.
                      Lowering the limit doesn’t make it easier for drunks to get pinged, it makes it easier for a whole bunch of safe drivers to end up having to pay fines for doing nothing wrong. I know you have an emotional attachment to this issue, but I don’t want a bunch of well-meaning but emotively driven people from infringing my (and countless others) freedom to have a glass of wine with dinner, or to have a beer after work with my workmates, and then drive home perfectly safely. Because thats what I do, when I know I’m going to be driving I limit my intake to one drink. It isn’t difficult.
                      Zero tolerance is targetting the wrong people, the ones who are causing the problems are the ones who drive over the limit as it is currently set. Like the chap who got tanked at the pub in Rolleston recently, then drove home in his 4WD and ran into and killed a cyclist that he was too drunk to see. Lowering the limit would have no impact on d*ckheads like that, they drive intoxicated already.

    • Lanthanide 1.2

      Can everyone just ignore the troll please?

    • felix 1.3

      1. Yep, as long as it’s not going to pick up mouthwash etc. Why the fuck not?
      2. Yep
      3. Maybe. Sounds expensive though.
      4. You’re a psycho.

      • higherstandard 1.3.1

        Cue shower curtains and scree, scree, scree etc

        Can’t see what problem people have with zero limit, if one accepts that alcohol impairs ability and one needs to have their full faculties available to drive a zero limit is a reasonable proposition.

    • Vicky32 1.4

      Lower the limit to zero, yes! Why on earth not? Is everyone so undisciplined?
      No 4, third offence death – absolutely not. The death penalty is an abomination no matter what the crime!

  2. ianmac 2

    Actually your No 1, zero limit would make it easy to monitor even though a trifle unpopular.

    The Herald might do some good by identifying a driver at .07 say, involved in a fatal accident. Headlines could be very explicit. People identify much better with a particular rather than a general.

  3. M 3


    In El Salvador your first drink driving offence is your last – execution by firing squad.


    I agree with your zero alcohol limit for driving. Given that alcohol is expensive at bars anyway, people should be able to spring for a cab or get the bus home if not too late – it all needs to factored into the cost of having an evening out.

    The price of alcohol needs to also rise another 50% to discourage abuse.

    Unfortunately Key keeps his balls in a brown paper bag and only brings them out when it’s for something really important like enacting the 90-day fire at will law instead of doing something really useful.

    • Blighty 3.1

      but you can have an above zero alcohol reading from all kinds of things, it doesn’t have to mean you’ve been drinking or hat you are intoxicated.

      • higherstandard 3.1.1

        blightly see felix’s comment above – one could easily set parameters around this to ensure people didn’t get pinged if they’d had some mouthwash etc.

        Oh don’t get hung up on my death penalty comment – apart from the fact we’d never go there it was a throw away comment.

    • Blighty 3.2

      “In El Salvador your first drink driving offence is your last – execution by firing squad.”

      don’t believe everything you read on the internet. That site also claims execution on the second offence in Bulgaria. Bulgaria doesn’t even have the death penalty.

      • M 3.2.1

        OK Blighty, but I wouldn’t want to run the risk and it’s not really a concern for me as I rarely drink.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.3

      Given that alcohol is expensive at bars anyway,…

      But damn cheap when the boss puts in on free at the office.

  4. Augustus 4

    Crap post. Like the “News” last night. Quote (following news of a road death): “Police are investigating whether alcohol was involved.”
    Perhaps they should be investigating that first, before making a news item of it? Or is the statement just intended to create hysteria? Like this post?

    • Maynard J 4.1

      Well aren’t you all confused… Let me help:

      A) The police are investigating

      B) The media are reporting

      C) The media are not doing the investigating, and the police aren’t reporting on the story.

      I hope that helps you.

      • Joachim's 4.1.1

        Actually any decent reporting requires some investigation work and digging around.

        Repeating what someone else says != Journalism.

  5. Treetop 5

    Less alcohol consumed more unemployment. Just watch the unemployment stats in a month, (uni students) and in two months, (school leavers).

    Not lowering the limit to 0.05 mg is very telling on how bloody minded and reckless this government is regarding drinking and driving. The recidivisit drunks on the road are a separate issue and need to be treated accordingly.

    • Vicky32 5.1

      “Less alcohol consumed more unemployment. ”
      I don’t understand this!

      • Treetop 5.1.1

        If people drink less, sales will be down and bar/bottle store staff may be laid off. With unemployment rising due to the time of the year and a drop in alcohol revenue, this may also affect bar/bottle store staff being employed. Cafes with a license may also be affected.

        I’m not talking about big unemployment/employment numbers.

        • Vicky32

          Ah, I see… I think that fewer alcohol sales would have a negligible effect on unemployment, myself…

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