Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says Cabinet has agreed to lower the legal blood alcohol limit from 80 to 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood for drivers aged over 20.
“Legislation to bring about this change will receive its first reading before the House rises for the Christmas break,” Mr Brownlee says.
“Alcohol impairment is a major cause of road accidents in New Zealand, with an average of 61 fatalities, 244 serious injuries, and 761 minor injuries every year caused by at-fault drivers who have been drinking.
“The social cost of these injuries and fatalities is $446 million – a huge sum in a country of our size.”
A two year review of the impact of lowering the legal blood alcohol limit by 30 milligrams suggests 3.4 lives will be saved a year and 64 injury causing crashes avoided – and save $200 million in social costs over 10 years.
“Data collected by Police over the past 22 months shows 53 drivers were involved in fatal and serious injury crashes with blood alcohol readings of between 51 and 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood,” Mr Brownlee says.
It’s proposed the new regime will impose civil infringements on drivers with between 50 and 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. Drivers testing positive for this lower limit will receive a $200 fine and gain 50 demerit points.
“This is not a soft option,” Mr Brownlee says.
“Drink driving is a serious matter and I would note that accumulation of 100 demerit points for driving related offences in any two-year period can lead to three months’ suspension of a driver’s licence.”
Testing positive to over 80 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood while in charge of a motor vehicle will remain a criminal offence.
“We know that drivers with a very high blood alcohol concentration, and recidivist drink drivers, are responsible for a much higher proportion of alcohol related road fatalities,” Mr Brownlee says.
“That is why we believe this fine-based approach at the lower end is most appropriate.”
Mr Brownlee says the Government has a strong record on road safety and today’s decision reinforces that.