The Government announced a new breath-alcohol limit yesterday, and said that drivers breached it faced fines and stiff demerit point penalties. The Government, which rejected a lower limit in 2010, has appeared to bow to public opinion, by proposing to cut the blood alcohol limit from 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood to 50mg. Drivers caught between the proposed new limit and the current one will not go to court, but will instead face $200 fines and 50 demerit points – half-way to losing their licence.
The new rules would not curb “normal social activity” because drivers could still have a moderate amount of alcohol and legally drive. Though he never consumed alcohol before driving because he had constant “dial a driver” in the form of police, Prime Minister Key said that after politics he would consume only “one beer, maybe two” and still drive.
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said that how much individuals could drink depended heavily on body type, but “one or two” drinks should still be OK.”
“Beyond that you’d start to be into darkish territory,” he said.
The Cabinet wanted to strike a balance between discouraging drink-driving and determining whether offences were “at a criminal level”, he said. Research suggested that lowering the limit could save 3.4 lives a year, prevent 64 injury-causing crashes and save $200 million in social costs over 10 years. “It’s not totally compelling [but] what it does show is that if there are less drunk drivers or less people on the road impaired by alcohol, then you’ll have less injuries and less deaths,” Brownlee said.
And that’s a good thing. I drive long distances on Friday’s nights heading up to Mt Ruapehu during ski season, and I often wonder if the cars driving towards me are piloted by people have had too much to drink, and may suddenly veer across the centreline and take me out…
I’m no wowser (obviously). This affects me too. I’ll have to take it easy when I have a wine or two when I know I’ll have to drive afterwards…