Reducing the blood alcohol limit will save lives and not impinge on responsible levels of social drinking.

The proposed new blood alcohol limits will not make rural people criminals, as suggested by federated farmers Vice-President Charlie Pederson. With the proposed new limits, drivers will still be able to consume small amounts of alcohol, and then drive. And, if the government does introduce the new policy package, those caught driving between 50-80mg will be given a fine rather than be arrested and face court proceedings.

The lower levels of alcohol will bring fewer deaths and injuries on our roads. New Zealand has the highest blood alcohol concentration in the world, alongside Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Countries with a 50mg limit include Australia, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and Spain. Almost every country that has lowered the blood alcohol concentration to 50mg or lower has experienced traffic safety benefits in terms of reduced crashes, injuries, and fatalities.

There are two main savings to be made with a lower limit. Firstly there is the decrease in drink driving and subsequent reduction in death and injury at levels between 50-80mg. Secondly, a lower blood alcohol concentration stops the progress to higher blood alcohol levels. Research in Australia has shown that the reduction in the legal limit had a substantial effect on drivers with high blood alcohol concentrations.

Some groups, including the Federated Farmers, believe that the lower limit will ruin their social lives, and that they will not be able to drink alcohol with a meal and then drive. However this is not the case. Australia has a 50mg limit, and their recommendations state that in the first hour a male can drink two standard drinks (containing 10mg alcohol), and then one standard drink per hour after that.

The guidelines for females state that they can drink one standard drink in the first hour and one per hour after that. This allows people to go out and have a glass or two of wine with a meal and then drive, and definitely does not make criminals out of those already drinking small amounts when dining out.

The most important factor to consider in this debate is that reductions of deaths and injuries have been seen overseas when the limit is lower. The greatest reductions have been seen in Queensland, Australia, with an 18 percent reduction in fatal collisions and a 14 percent reduction in serious crashes.

Alcohol Healthwatch Director Rebecca Williams says that “if people are going to risk drinking and driving, surely we would want them to keep their drinking at minimum levels – to avoid intoxication and associated risks for driving”.

For further information please contact Rebecca Williams, Director, (09) 520 7035 or 021 862 250

And see Reducing the Legal Blood Alcohol Concentration for Driving in New Zealand