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Crackdown on speeding and drink driving

Hon Paul Swain

16 December 2003

Crackdown on speeding and drink driving as part of road safety strategy to cut road toll

Speeding drivers and those who repeatedly drive drunk are targeted in a new package of measures as part of the government's efforts to reduce the road toll.

The Transport Minister Paul Swain has announced details of an Enforcement package, the "third E" under the government's "Three Es" road safety strategy.

An announcement on the first E - Engineering, was made in October, when an extra $47 million over two years was announced for fixing accident blackspots.

The second E - Education, was announced in November, with the launch of the LTSA Up to Scratch programme.

"However, we will not make further progress towards our road safety goal of no more than 300 road deaths and 4,500 hospitalisations a year by 2010 without taking new enforcement steps," says Mr Swain.

"This enforcement package signals a crackdown on dangerous speeding and repeat drink drivers to stop these people from killing and maiming on the road."

"These drivers will lose their licences and their vehicles in greater numbers under this new regime, because speed and alcohol are the two biggest contributing factors to road deaths."

"The government has agreed to a package of measures, with legislation to be drafted and introduced next year."

It includes: -

SPEED

- Speeding drivers will face immediate 28-day suspension of their licence for exceeding the permanent posted speed limit by 40 km/h.

- This means licence suspension for travelling 140 km/h in a 100 km/h zone, or 90km/h in a 50 km/h zone.

- (The current regime has a 50km/h threshold before licence suspension.)

- Police will be able to use speed cameras more widely across the country with the introduction of "Anywhere, Anytime" cameras, and the removal of speed camera signs and zones. The cameras will be fixed, as they are now, or in cars or vans, and targeted to high risk areas.

- This does not include camouflaged or hidden speed cameras, which have been rejected by the government.

DRINK DRIVING

- Current court-imposed penalties for the first offence of a driver detected at more than 80mg/100ml, or the breath equivalent, will remain.

- (i.e. maximum 3 months imprisonment or $4,500 fine, and mandatory disqualification from driving for at least 6 months.)

- A new penalty of immediate 28-day licence suspension for a driver with a blood alcohol level exceeding 80mg/100ml or breath equivalent, where that person has a previous drink drive conviction in the past 4 years.

- A new penalty of immediate 28-day impoundment of the vehicle of a driver with a blood alcohol level exceeding 80mg/100ml or breath equivalent, where that person has two previous drink drive convictions in the past 4 years.

- Any driver with a blood alcohol level of 130 mg/100ml will immediately lose their licence for 28 days. The current trigger point is 160mg/100ml.

- These new penalties are on top of the existing powers of the court, such as confiscation and imprisonment. In 2002 there were 530 vehicles confiscated from drunk drivers, up from 93 vehicles in 1997.

- Further work is being done on the issue of alcohol ignition interlocks that immobilise the vehicles of repeat drink drivers if they have been drinking.

ILLICIT DRUGS

- The government has agreed in principle to introduce a new offence, for being impaired by illicit drugs while in control of a vehicle. The driver would be required to undergo a physical assessment of impairment, to identify the level of illicit drug impairment that is likely to be comparable with existing blood alcohol levels.

- This is tougher than the current regime, where it is an offence to drive under the influence of illicit drugs to the extent of being "incapable of proper control."

- Police and transport officials are to undertake further work on technical issues such as testing regimes, and report back to the government by May 2004 on how to implement the changes.

Mr Swain says other measures will not proceed.

- The blood alcohol limit will not be lowered. It is clear there is not widespread support in the community for this measure.

- There will be no hidden or camouflaged speed cameras.

- There will be no demerit points on speed cameras, primarily because of difficulties associated with driver identification and the potential for an increase in court appeals.

- There will be no change to the 10km/h tolerance for speeding infringements.

Mr Swain says 2003 is turning out to be a tragic year on the roads, with the number of deaths already running about 60 higher than for the same time in 2002.

"I am hoping for a better year in 2004, and as we all head away for the summer holidays we all need to remember the importance of not speeding, not drinking and driving, buckling up, and taking regular breaks."

"It's always better to arrive a little late than dead on time."

Mr Swain has also released the results of a new LTSA survey of public attitudes to road safety enforcement measures. It can be found at:-

http://www.ltsa.govt.nz/research/safety-interventions/index.html

Road Safety to 2010 - Next Steps Enforcement Package

Background

The Road Safety to 2010 strategy contains goals to reduce the number of road deaths to no more than 300 and the number of hospitalisations to no more than 4,500 a year by 2010.

Existing enforcement, engineering and education activity will help reduce deaths and injuries. The combination of speed, drink-driving and more vehicles, and more vehicles travelling more kilometres, means we have to progressively introduce new measures to meet our target.

On December 15, 441 people had been killed on our roads more than the total number of road deaths in 2002.

In 2002 we had a fatality rate of 1.5 deaths per 10,000 vehicles. That compares with 1.1 deaths per 10,000 vehicles in Sweden, 1.2 deaths per 10,000 vehicles in the United Kingdom and 1.4 deaths per 10,000 vehicles in Australia in 2001. Our goal is no more than 1.1 deaths per 10,000 vehicles by 2010.

The Three Es

The Government is taking action across the three Es - engineering, education, and enforcement to help save more lives and prevent more injuries on our roads.

Engineering

In October, the Government announced an extra $47 million over two years for engineering projects to make our roads safer. This more than doubled the existing funding for safety work, and is in addition to approximately $400 million of safety-related work intrinsic to wider construction and maintenance programmes every year.

Education

Last month Up to Scratch was launched - an innovative new education initiative targeted at everyday drivers to get their knowledge of the road rules and road safety "up to scratch". Up to Scratch complements the other education programmes in place already such as the competency based training and assessment pilot (a trial of a different approach to driver licensing), "Practice" (a driving programme for teenagers) and the "Street Talk" course for restricted licence holders.

Enforcement

The new enforcement measures address serious speeding and serious and repeat drink-drivers, and support the Police introducing 'Anywhere, Anytime' speed cameras.

Summary of Road Safety to 2010 - Next Steps Enforcement Package

Measures being introduced:

- Roadside licence suspension for 28 days for exceeding the permanent posted speed limit by 40km/hour. Currently roadside licence suspension applies when exceeding the speed limit by 50km/hour.

- To deter speeding, the police can use 'Anywhere, Anytime' speed cameras more widely across the country. This involves the removal of speed camera zones and signs. Cameras will be targeted at any area where speed puts lives at particular risk. The cameras will be fixed (as they are now), or in cars or vans.

- A graduated regime - "three-strikes and you're out" - for drink-drivers with blood alcohol content over 80mg/100ml committing three offences within four years.

- 1st offence - current court imposed penalties for first drink driving offence

- 2nd offence - immediate licence suspension for 28 days for drink drivers with a blood alcohol content of over 80mg/100ml who have had one previous drink driving conviction in the past four years (on top of court penalties)

- 3rd offence - immediate vehicle impoundment for 28 days and a requirement to re-sit and pass the practical driving test for drink drivers caught with a blood alcohol content of over 80mg/100ml who have had two previous drink driving convictions in the past four years (on top of court penalties)

- Immediate licence suspension for 28 days when detected with a blood alcohol content of 130mg/100ml. This penalty currently applies at a blood alcohol content of 160mg/100ml.

- Further investigation of alcohol ignition interlocks - which immobilise vehicles of convicted serious repeat drink drivers if they try to drive after drinking.

- The government has agreed in principle to introduce a new offence, for being impaired by illicit drugs while in control of a vehicle. This is tougher than the current situation where a driver has to be unable to control a vehicle before they commit an offence. Police and transport officials are to undertake further work on technical issues such as testing regimes, and report back to the government by May 2004 on how to implement the changes.

Questions and Answers

1. Why are the enforcement measures needed?

Road Safety to 2010 details the Government's "three Es" approach to road safety - which builds on the synergy between engineering, education, and enforcement to improve road safety.

The measures focus on areas of high risk - with many aimed at serious and repeat offenders.

Without additional actions we will not meet the Road Safety to 2010 targets of no more than 300 deaths and 4,500 injuries a year.

2. Why target serious and repeat offenders?

There is a small but significant minority of people who repeatedly drive at unsafe speeds or when highly intoxicated. They represent a hard core who are resistant to current sanctions, and who are a danger to everyone on the roads.

Serious repeat drink drivers have a higher risk of crashing than other drivers. They are three times as likely to be involved in an injury crash.

3. Why target speed?

Excessive speed is the single biggest factor in fatal road crashes - contributing to 30% of all fatal crashes in 2002.

Speed enforcement is one of the most effective means of saving lives and preventing serious injuries on our roads.

Speed contributed to 126 people dying and 527 people being seriously injured in 2002.

A driver is at least three times as likely to be involved in a fatal crash travelling at 130km/hour, than at 100km/hour.

4. Why target drink?

Over the past five years serious drink-drivers (160mg/100ml) were responsible for 193 people being killed on the roads and 1,725 being injured.

In 2000 there were 6,615 people convicted of driving with high Blood Alcohol Content (over 160mg/100ml) or refusing to comply with testing procedures.

That's almost 130 a week. Of those 2,728 had at least one previous alcohol offence in the preceding 5 years.

In 2000, 1,030 drink-drivers were convicted of three or more drink-driving offences in the past five years.

In a special November 2003 survey of New Zealand public attitudes to road safety, 76% support or strongly support automatic loss of licence for drivers caught with a blood alcohol of 130 mg /100ml.

In addition, 93% support or strongly support vehicle impoundment for people caught drink-driving three or more times.

5. What do 'Anywhere, Anytime' speed cameras mean?

An 'Anywhere, Anytime' speed camera programme would mean the current speed camera zones and signs would be removed. They will continue to be used in areas of high risk. The cameras will be fixed (as they are now), or in cars or vans.

At the moment some drivers slow down when they know they are approaching a fixed speed camera site, the speed up again straight afterwards. Putting cameras in different spots at different times will be a more effective way to encourage people to stick to the speed limit all the time.

6. How does this differ from hidden speed cameras?

The cameras will not be camouflaged or hidden, e.g. on tripods behind trees.

When will the 'Anywhere, Anytime' speed cameras be introduced?

This is a decision for the Commissioner of Police.

7. When will the other new measures take effect?

All the measures, except the 'Anywhere, Anytime' speed cameras measures require a change to the Land Transport Act 1998 (LTA). It is expected that legislation amending the LTA will be introduced early in 2004.

8. How will Police enforce the new measures?

The new enforcement measures are not expected to require more staff and will be part of business as usual for the police enforcement work. Police will receive training when the new measures are introduced.

9. Why change the speed limit for immediate licence suspension, for exceeding the permanent posted speed limit by 50km to 40km?

We are targeting serious speeding because of the amount of damage these drivers travelling at extremely excessive speed can cause on our roads.

Lowering the threshold by 10km should have the effect of lowering the speed of the worst offenders.

10. What evidence do you have that the "three-strikes and you're out" graduated scheme will work?

Many repeat offenders don't get the message not to drink and drive from the current penalty regime. Removing these drivers from the road for additional offences within a four-year period helps remove their risk to other motorists.

The number of unlicensed and disqualified drivers involved in crashes has been cut by a quarter since vehicle impoundment was brought in.

11. What are alcohol ignition interlocks?

Alcohol ignition interlocks are a breathalyser device that won't allow vehicles to be started until the driver's breath is below a specific blood alcohol content.


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