by Gareth Hughes
A few days ago the Government announced another set of tough penalties for teen drink drivers.
They have effectively reduced the blood alcohol limit for teenage drink drivers to zero. I think it is a case of youth scapegoating but I’m not complaining about this because we need to cut down on teen drink driving – it’s tragic how many people die or are injured as a result.
Lower the blood alcohol limit for adults too
But it seems a little unfair to me that, while happy to penalize teen drink drivers for having any alcohol in their system, the government is refusing to lower the Blood Alcohol Limit from 0.08 to 0.05 grams per 100 millilitres of blood for adult drivers.
Experts say NZ has one of the highest legal blood alcohol limits for adult drivers in the developed world. Our limit of 0.08 means that a big guy can drink up to 8 drinks over a few hours and still test below the limit.
Personally, I’m a light weight. I could never drink that much and then drive safely. What about you – do you think we should lower the limit for adults?
Another idea that the government is depending on to reduce our accident rate from drink driving is to put vehicle alcohol interlocks on the cars of repeat drink drivers.
Interlocks are little devices that you have to exhale into. If you test over the limit then they won’t let you start your car.
I think this is a good idea although obviously it won’t always work. For example, if you borrow your friend’s car or you are driving an unregistered car (as some of our most troubled drink drivers may well be) then you can get away without having an interlock.
More emphasis on treatment is needed
Personally, what I think is missing from the government’s drive to decrease drink driving is a focus on the root causes.
In many cases, the cause of drink driving is alcohol addiction. A while ago I asked a question of the Minister which showed me that between 2005 and 2008 only 7% of first-time drink drivers, and just 17% of repeat drink drivers were referred to treatment for alcohol addiction.
It’s hard for me to believe that only 17% of repeat drink drivers have a problem with alcohol. I think that harsher penalties and interlocks will do little to reduce offending alone. Better treatment and education is needed as well – and ALAC agrees with me about this.
What do you think? Would you like to see more drink drivers referred for treatment?