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Call to reduce legal blood alcohol limit supported

9 July 2008

Media release

Waitakere supports call to reduce legal blood alcohol limit

Waitakere City Council’s Culture and Community Committee today supported the call from national lobby group Point Zero Five to reduce the existing blood alcohol limit for drivers.

Led by the Alcohol Healthwatch charitable trust and regional road safety stakeholders from the New Zealand Police, councils, ACC and others, the Point Zero Five group is advocating for the current blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 per 100 millilitres to be lowered to 0.05, in a bid to reduce alcohol-related road deaths.

After hearing a presentation made by Superintendent John Kelly, the Road Policing Manager for the Waitemata Police District, the Committee unanimously agreed to endorse Point Zero Five’s policy.

Auckland, North Shore City, Rodney and Franklin have already signed up to support the group’s work and Manukau and Papakura are expected to come onboard shortly.

Superintendent Kelly told the meeting that alcohol is one of the biggest contributing factors to New Zealand’s road toll and that alcohol-related road fatalities continue to be a serious issue in Waitakere.

Statistics show that between 2003 and 2007, there were 196 crashes in Waitakere involving drivers who were over the legal limit. Recent road safety campaigns in Waitakere also indicate that drinking and driving is on the increase among women and youth, he said.

Superintendent Kelly reminded councillors about Waitakere’s ‘Safe City’ status and said supporting a call for a lower BAC limit would increase the safety benefits to local residents”.

“Research has shown that important driving skills, including vision, steering and braking are adversely affected by even small amounts of alcohol. The most effective measure for seeing a reduction in our road toll is to lower the blood alcohol concentration to 0.05g,” he said.

“Reducing the BAC limit to 0.05g will result in a great number of benefits; a decrease in road fatalities and injuries, a decrease in the total number of road crashes, fewer drunk drivers on our roads and reduced costs associated with alcohol-related crashes.”

Superintendent Kelly referenced international evidence which indicates that lowering the BAC to 0.05g has seen positive results. In Queensland, for example, there has been an 18 percent reduction in fatal collisions and a 14 percent reduction in serious accidents, while Austria has reported a 9 percent decrease in alcohol-related crashes and Belgium an 11 percent decrease. Cologne in Germany has seen its number of alcohol-related accidents halve.

“Lower blood alcohol limits encourage drivers to keep a better count of the drinks they consume in order to stay below the limit,” Superintendent Kelly says.

According to an Alcohol Healthwatch paper, if New Zealand adopted a 0.05g limit, the country could expect to see a reduction in the number of drink drivers on our roads, leading to up to 1280 fewer serious injuries incurred from alcohol-impaired driving.

Committee chairman, Councillor Judy Lawley, says building a safe city which supports the health and wellbeing of residents makes the Point Zero Five initiative “a logical move”.

“Within New Zealand there has been growing interest in this issue and public attitude surveys suggest that the majority of New Zealanders recognise the dangers of drink-driving and already separate the two activities,” she says.

“However, we are currently one of the few countries that have failed to keep up with the international trend to lower adult BAC levels. For the safety of our people, it’s time we caught up.”


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