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Xmas parties kill before midnight

MEDIA RELEASE - Candor Trust

Xmas parties kill before midnight

Quite surprisingly half of the predominantly "mature" drunk drivers to suffer or cause excruciating deaths on NZ roads in 2006 were sneaking home (or somewhere else) after dinnertime, but before the midnight hour. They were overly successful in their attempt to evade late night checkpoints, and also perhaps the Grim reapers to people with a false sense of security early evening.

In 1987 151 dead drivers were drunk, now nearly a decade later in 2006 the number has dropped to 46. But this improvement is deceptive,
because it is equaled or matched with a slightly greater number of drugged drivers (NZ Police - control of drunk and drugged drivers study), which returns road users right back to square one in risk exposure. The improvement relating to alcohol is also slowly losing ground.

Candor Trust is concerned by the continued blame shifting to "young" (teen) drivers, as this group are the quintessential role models for us all, at least in so far as drink driving goes. The statistics looking back to 2006 make clear that it is in fact the 20-44 year olds who today need to be looking closely at their risk taking.

They think they can drive, they can even drive drunk or drugged given their level of experience. Only 5 of the 46 deceased drunk drivers last year were young drivers under twenty years of age. Thirty nine or 85% were fully legal adults and ought have been old enough to know better.

Most had only had four or so drinks too many, and had they stopped drinking and / or pot smoking and simply waited for a few hours then they would have been fine to drive.

Candor Trust objects to Government diverting attention away from the hard issues with lots of bluster about toughening up on young drivers, who simply are not behind the worsening drink driving statistics - or about tweaking adult limits ever so slightly. These are weak and knee jerk interventions that are more about being seen to do something.

Many of the impaired deceased drivers or killer drivers are or were recidivists, and this is why they are sneaking around and dying during the 6 o'clock news and before midnight. Still the Government has declined to provide ignition alco-locks. Or sentences that adequately contain the risk. Such mismanagement is the number 1 reason our roads remain risky from those with no regard for life.

Middle aged recidivist drunks and drug drivers who've never been correctly processed are the glaring and obvious issues, and the ones from which a plan of action can reap the greatest return in life savings. Most drink drivers to get caught are recidivists wherther they've been charged prior or not, as research by MADD shows that for each arrest arrestees have driven impaired 30x.

Drug driving is certainly the major issue for the younger drivers in NZ, but there is no official recognition of this by the Prime Minister who has only lately ventured to jump into the road safety debate. Despite that a significant Government bill bought by the Police Minister is before the select committee, Helen Clark has advocated for a zero limit for the group with minimal drink driving carnage.

This initiative is supported by Candor as any alcohol interaction with drug taking is detrimental to driving skill, however the proposition evades dealing with the greatest and most rightful policy targets. It's no use at all to go getting tough on the wrong things. The poor souls killed by drink and drug drivers would simply be shaking their heads at that.

Nearly a year ago today Candor Trust in partnership with the Sensible Sentencing Trust suggested a 3 strike law leading to permanent disqualification. The Trust also identified that the current enforcement strategy was in failure. The head of National Road Policing told Radio NZ that was not the case. Candor's membership has swelled since then.

Now that NZ's worsening toll statistics and the Duignan report (slammed checkpoints and drink drive adverts as ineffective) have since proven Police wrong, the hand wringing has begun. Our road safety target of equalling the best countries tolls (which we once did) by 2010 has been put back 30 years in the new draft transport strategy released last week. It is a blue print for drawn out bloody murder.

It seems that if the Government is to continue ignoring the real issues - the middle aged and older drink driver's dire need for tertiary prevention, and younger drug drivers needs from A to Z over this holiday period - and to do so in defiance of naturally burgeoning road user advocacy groups due to increasing victimisation, then the best Xmas present Kiwi's can buy this year just could be a wheel clamp.


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